As Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin goes on a pub crawl across the country to explain his passionate support for a no-deal Brexit, he gives some perspective for his views to Jamie Bowman during his visit to North Wales...

AS he stopped to sign autographs and pose for selfies, Tim Martin looked every inch the ageing rockstar on a comeback tour.

The boss of the JD Wetherspoon pub chain visited Wrexham on Friday, as part of a national pub crawl of more than 100 of his hostelries, with the aim of speaking directly to customers and outlining his reasoning for supporting leaving the European Union (EU) without an agreed deal.

The 63-year-old businessman’s two-month jaunt to chat to drinkers about what he claims to be “the huge economic advantages” of leaving the EU, on March 29 this year, with no agreement in place, rolled into North Wales just a day after the head of Airbus tore into the Government’s handling of Brexit, branding it a “disgrace” and warning the company, which employs about 6,000 people at its Broughton site, could pull out of the UK if a no-deal departure becomes reality.

The Leader:

“I’m not sure Mick Jagger will feel threatened,” laughs Mr Martin, as we take cover in a corner of The Elihu Yale. “But people are very emotional about the outcome of the referendum in 2016 and a lot of people are feeling it is slipping away and Parliament isn’t adhering to the decision.

“I suppose anyone like me who comes out and tours the country saying the decision should be implemented is well-regarded.”

A crowd of about 200 people packed into the pub at 11am to hear Mr Martin speak (or try to hear - his speech was beset by sound problems), including retired Gresford man, Peter Tompsett, who said he admired the Wetherspoon owner’s plain speaking.

“He’s a very successful businessman who makes a great deal of sense,” said Mr Tompsett. “I think there’s a lot of fear been fed into the debate, especially at the beginning when we were told everything was going to go to hell in a handcart.

The Leader:

“The opposite has happened and once again the experts are foretelling doom and gloom and if their previous track record is anything to go by we should be very encouraged.”

‘Project Fear’ seems to be a phrase which comes up a lot during Mr Martin’s speech, with the businessman believing no-deal will free up the UK to operate in a free trade environment, akin to countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Singapore.

“It is much better to leave now without a deal,” he said. “We can save £39 billion, we can eliminate tariffs on thousands of things we buy in the shops which will reduce prices and we can regain control of our fishing waters.

“Above all we can increase the level of democracy in the UK - democracy and prosperity are very closely linked.”

The Leader:

Not everyone in the pub was convinced by Mr Martin’s arguments and a number of hecklers could be heard criticising his views on things like the border in Northern Ireland.

“I don’t get why he is telling everyone to go for no-deal,” said Aled Canter, 24, of Wrexham. “The World Trade Organisation (WTO) have actually told us there is no way we can actually enter it, so what’s the plan?

“I think he [Mr Martin] is just self-serving and he doesn’t actually care. At the end of the day I don’t think we were ever told the truth about Brexit and instead were told blatant lies.”

So what about the threats from Airbus, whose UK operations generate about £6 billion in turnover annually, making it the biggest aerospace company in the country?

The Leader:

“Twenty years ago we were confronted with the same thing when it was the Euro debate,” said Mr Martin. “Companies like Airbus and BMW said we want you to join the Euro because we won’t be exposed to currency risk.

“We were promised they would all leave and go to the continent but they didn’t do it.

“I think if we do the things I’ve suggested and become a free trading nation like Singapore, we’ll do very well and we’d be very attractive to manufacturers throughout the world as a location.”

Another issue concerning North Wales is that of famers who, according to NFU Cymru, under WTO terms, would face an effective tariff rate of about 46 per cent on average for lamb exports, whilst for beef, effective rates would be between 48 per cent and 84 per cent.

Currently, as members of the EU’s single market and customs union, Welsh lamb exports to France or Germany face no import or export taxes and no checks at the border.

The Leader:

Only five per cent of lamb produced in Wales is consumed in the country, according to Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales - and up to 40 per cent is exported out of the UK. More than 90 per cent of these exports are to the EU.

Just this week, Wyn Evans, who is chairman of the NFU Cymru livestock board, told The Guardian, “if there is no deal it would be horrific for farmers, especially in the sheep sector”.

“I think there will be more opportunities to sell within the UK,” countered Mr Martin. “I don’t think the EU can afford to put tariffs on our products.

“It would be a bold step as we are the number one export destination for so many EU products.

The Leader:

“The perplexing thing is that they’ve already offered us a Canada plus deal but Mrs May wouldn’t take it.

“A free trade deal with the EU was what we all thought we were going to get and Donald Tusk [President of the European Council] said that was what he’d offered.”

Last year Wetherspoon announced it will no longer serve the German liqueur Jagermeister and French brandies Courvoisier VS and Hennessy Fine de Cognac across its 880 pubs, with Mr Martin claiming the switch is “100 pe cent inspired by Brexit”.

“People like Australian brandy a lot, English sparkling wine and Welsh wheat beer,” he added. “People have to remember the EU is only seven per cent of the world. In 93 per cent of the world you can buy anything you can buy in the EU.”

One drinker meeting Mr Martin as he moved through the crowd at the bar could be heard nervously asking about the future of Guinness in his pubs but the Brexit campaigner was quick to assure him.

“I said to him I was a man of principle,” Mr Martin added. “Guinness will stay on the menu, whatever happens.”

The Leader: