JD Wetherspoon founder and chairman, Tim Martin, gives his view on why the UK Government should adopt a tough stance in its negotiations over leaving the EU, including a pledge to grant EU workers in Britain the right to stay.
I, and many others, believe that the government, the media and most economists are wrong in believing that a sensible post-Brexit arrangement can be agreed by normal trading negotiations, especially given the attitude of EU representatives in recent months. The situation isn’t akin to a house sale with a willing buyer and a willing seller. The post-Brexit EU will comprise 27 countries, all of which have a say in the potential “deal”, making a sensible one unlikely, and making distracting and sapping stalemates inevitable.
Those doing the negotiation for the EU are led by grandstanding individuals such as the unelected presidents Junker and Tusk, who represent a chaotic and undemocratic organisation, which has not even had its books audited for over 20 years- and one which finds it almost impossible to agree trade deals with any large economies. They also clearly appear intent on making our life difficult. So, in these circumstances, it is best for the UK to proceed on the basis that negotiations are inadvisable and are likely to be counterproductive.
In this context, since virtually no one wants hard-working immigrants from the EU to leave the UK, the government should start by unilaterally granting them the right to stay. Their efforts benefit our economy, we have low unemployment and are also one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Immigrants carry out vital jobs in the health service, in the professions and in many other areas of UK life, as UK voters understand. The government can then plan, from the moral high ground, to create an immigration system similar to that of Australia, New Zealand or Singapore, for example. This will mean that future immigration is controlled by the UK government and is administered on the basis of the economic needs of the country- not on the whim of unelected officials.
As regards trade, the government should then plan to trade with EU countries, after the two year ‘negotiation’ period is up, based on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. These rules govern our, and the EU`s trading relationships with the world’s biggest economies, including the USA, China and India. In line with the views of the respected “Economists for Free Trade”, who correctly contradicted the apocalyptic views of the IMF and others regarding the allegedly dire impact of a leave vote, the government should declare its intention to drop tariffs from any countries in the world which export to the UK, including the EU- which is permitted under WTO rules. This will dramatically reduce consumer prices in the shops, thereby increasing purchasing power and our general standard of living. Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel and Norway , for example, have dropped almost all tariffs and their economies have raced ahead. It is possible that the EU will impose tariffs on our exports to the EU even so, but let them do it, since the tariffs imposed will be relatively small – less than half the amount the UK will save by ending its EU contributions in two years’ time.
Taking the above actions will largely eliminate the need for negotiations with the EU. Companies and individuals within the UK can then plan for the future and, if the unelected EU prima donnas decide to throw their toys out of the pram, UK consumers will soon make their displeasure known by reducing their purchases of French wine, German cars and so on. The government should instead use its negotiating energy in trying to reach free trade deals with willing parties around the world, rather than dealing with representatives of a failed system, which is itself having a deleterious effect on the economies of Europe , especially Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy.
This advice to the government is based on many decades of experience at Wetherspoon, whereby negotiations are advantageous with a willing counterparty- but are impossible without one. Wetherspoon has struck many deals with suppliers that, with minor variations, have lasted for decades. However, we have found that, on opening pubs in the Republic of Ireland, for example, some of our largest UK suppliers had no desire to reach a trading deal with Wetherspoon there. They clearly felt our presence would jeopardise the profitability of their cosy existing trading arrangements in that country. It has been our experience, in similar circumstances, that it’s pointless to get involved in negotiations with those who have no desire for a deal. You just have to work around those suppliers and make other arrangements – which is what we’ve done, with considerable success.
The moral of the story is that you need a willing counterparty in order to reach a deal, just as you can’t buy a particular house, unless someone is willing to sell it. If you’re too keen to buy that house, you will end up doing a very bad deal indeed, as the public instinctively knows. So, the UK should take the high moral ground, allow current immigrants to stay and dare the EU to round up Brits abroad and send them home. I’m sure they won’t, but even if they do, that will be another massive boost for the UK economy, since their consumer expenditure will take place in the UK, rather than abroad.
The Europeans are our friends, but the government is not dealing with them, it`s dealing with unelected officials, who have different priorities. So, Prime Minister, if you disagree with this analysis, just think of your last dinner party with Jean-Claude Junker. Or, even better, heed the words of former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who experienced the “sinister tactics” of EU officials himself, warned of their “contempt for democracy” and said that “negotiations in good faith are impossible”.