The boss of Britain’s biggest pub chain and the CBI today traded blows as a public spat over the implications of a potential no-deal Brexit intensified.
Wetherspoon's founder Tim Martin slammed the CBI in an open letter, accusing it – along with other trade bodies, companies and media outlets – of creating an "allegedly post-truth world" and peddling “misrepresentations”.
The pub group chairman rebuked claims the price of food could rise by up to 22 per cent if the UK reverts to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
But the CBI hit back, calling Martin “a broken record” on social media.
“The vast majority of businesses are clear: reverting to WTO rules would harm trade by introducing delay and complexity while pushing up prices for consumers,” the CBI posted on Twitter.
Martin wrote the food price hikes and other pieces of “misinformation” had filtered into various corners of the media and had been repeated to millions of people via interviews with politicians.
He continued: "In fact, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal in March 2019, parliament has the power, under WTO rules, to eliminate the tariffs that the EU currently charges on food imports from non-EU countries. According to those rules, tariffs cannot then be charged for EU imports either – so food prices in the UK would actually fall. A public realisation of lower food prices without a deal is, of course, kryptonite for the CBI/BRC [British Retail Consortium] case — as they are painfully aware."
The staunch Brexit supporter was prompted to pen his criticism of the CBI after his latest round of beer mats attracted criticism by beer writer Pete Brown.
"Pete, you can see we’re not dealing with high-class people here," he wrote.
In this allegedly post-truth world it is usually, of course, the press that acts as the bastion of democracy, querying political propaganda. But what do you do when large sections of the press have been hoodwinked by organisations which appear hellbent on patronising and fooling the public?
"Wetherspoon gave the answer on our beer mats and Pete, like the CBI, is not contesting the truth of the accusations but, perhaps understandably, prefers the falsehoods to be corrected elsewhere, so as to preserve the equilibrium and the convivial sanctum of the pub."
Martin’s comments also attracted the ire of food and farming alliance Sustain.
Chief executive Kath Dalmeny said: “Predicting post-Brexit food prices is tricky and needs to include things like tariffs.
“Mr Martin also fails to acknowledge that flooding our domestic market with cheap imports from places like the United States will put British jobs and British farming at risk,” she added.