Wetherspoon CEO Brexit campaigner Tim Martin is to be knighted in the New Year Honours according to reports.
The JD Wetherspoon founder has been nominated for the honour for services to business after building one of Britain’s biggest and most successful pub chains.
Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch is understood to have pushed his nomination behind the scenes, contending that it is wrong for successful entrepreneurs to be overlooked by the Establishment because they supported Brexit.
Former Cabinet minister David Jones said: ‘Tim Martin played a big part in the Brexit campaign. He was in tune with the national sentiment and understood the desire of the British people to recover their independence. The honour is well deserved and long overdue.’
Mr Martin, the son of a Guinness executive, opened his first pub in Muswell Hill, north London, in 1979. He originally named it Martin’s Free House but renamed it Wetherspoons the following year after a teacher who had told him he would never amount to anything.
The chain now boasts an estate of over 800 pubs, recording a 2022 turnover of £1.9billion and returning to profit for the first time since the Covid pandemic.
Tim Martin is also highly critical of the sector’s treatment regarding taxation and has criticized politicians for treating pubs as a ‘milk cow’ and taxing them more heavily than supermarkets. He is also founder of “Tax Equality Day” whereby Wetherspoon’s pubs cut the price of all food and drinks by 7.5 per cent – to highlight the benefit of a permanent VAT reduction in the hospitality industry.
During the pandemic he repeatedly argued with ministers over restrictions on hospitality, arguing that people were more likely to catch the virus at home than in a well-run pub.
Mr Martin became best known in the political world for his opposition to EU red tape and his high profile support for Brexit.
During the 2016 Brexit referendum he contributed £200,000 to the Vote Leave campaign and became one of the most prominent business supporters in the contentious campaign. He argued that the EU was growing less democratic in pursuit of “ever-closer union” and thereby stifling economic growth. And Mr Martin said the economic impacts of Brexit were worthwhile trade-offs for greater democracy in the UK.
Leading Brexiteers welcomed the nomination last night, Nigel Farage hailing Mr Martin a “Brexit legend” and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg saying he was “delighted”.