Wetherspoons cuts price of beer by 20p to show 'benefits' of no-deal Brexit

Mr Martin said he thinks more money might be saved in Wetherspoons pubs were the UK to leave the Customs Union.
Mr Martin said he thinks more money might be saved in Wetherspoons pubs were the UK to leave the Customs Union.

Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin has cut the price of a pint by an average of 20p in nearly 700 of his pubs in his latest pro-no-deal Brexit demonstration.

More than 600 branches of Wetherspoons are now serving a pint of Ruddles, brewed by Greene King, for £1.69, while a further 160 will be offering a pint for £1.59 or below. In 36 pubs, Ruddles will be as low as £1.39.

The remaining pubs will serve a pint between £1.99 and £2.89, depending on the individual pub’s location.

Mr Martin conceded that the new prices will cost him money, but says that it was still a worthwhile endeavour, and that the “symbolic move” illustrates the point that customers are spending too much on alcohol, and claimed the UK leaving the EU may help cut costs.

In August, Mr Martin pledged to cut the cost of beer if the UK leaves the EU “properly” by 31 October. He said he would cut beer prices to an “unbelievable low” after Brexit to celebrate Britain’s exit.

He said: “This is a symbolic move, there are no tariffs on beer. There’s been no import tax reduction yet.

“These prices illustrate what might happen when we leave. People are very grateful if they can afford to go out when they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.”

But Mr Martin said he thinks more money might be saved in Wetherspoons pubs were the UK to leave the Customs Union.

Tim Martin has always maintained that prices will be lower if the UK can set its own tariffs after leaving the EU. By switching to non-EU products, he claims the chain can make savings that will be passed on to customers.

“At the current time, customers and businesses pay tariffs on thousands of products which are imported from outside the EU,” he said in a separate statement.

“These tariffs are collected by the UK government and sent to Brussels. Provided we leave the Customs Union on 31st October, the government can end these protectionist tariffs, which will reduce prices in supermarkets and pubs.”

“A lot of politicians have misled the public by suggesting leaving the Customs Union would be a ‘cliff edge’ or ‘disaster’. This is the reverse of the truth. Ending tariffs will reduce prices.”

While it’s generally accepted that removing tariffs entirely would result in lower prices, it’s not clear that it would happen in this instance. Price changes can be caused by a variety of factors, and in a no-deal Brexit scenario, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) projects that costs from increased customs checks would be greater than any drop in prices from lower tariffs. There’s also currently a lack of clarity about what the UK’s tariff system would look like in the long-term, which makes price changes hard to predict.

As Mr Martin says, there are currently no tariffs on beer, so these current cuts come straight from the revenue of the pub chain. He said the reductions could have been subsidised by the money Wetherspoons is saving having switched to wines and spirits from outside the EU, but that those savings have already been passed onto customers.

Last year, the company replaced some of its champagnes with sparkling wine from New Zealand, Jägermeister with an alternative liquor called Striker, and a brandy from Australia.

Mr Martin said: “We have saved on these. It’s 10p per drink cheaper to buy Striker than Jäger, for example. But we’ve cut drinks prices by 10p – we’ve passed the savings onto customers. So we’re losing a bit on the beer.”

This article first appeared on our sister title inews