Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin denies staff shortages have been caused by Brexit

2 June 2021, 14:32 | Updated: 2 June 2021, 14:35

Tim Martin was quoted in The Telegraph as calling for more EU migration
Tim Martin was quoted in The Telegraph as calling for more EU migration. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin has denied claims his pubs have been hit with a staff shortage due to Brexit.

It comes after he was quoted in The Telegraph as calling for more EU migration to tackle the shortage of bar staff working in the UK.

He told the paper Prime Minister Boris Johnson should introduce a "reasonably liberal immigration system" controlled by Britain.

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However, Mr Martin, a vocal supporter of the UK exiting the EU, told investors on Wednesday that characterisations of his quotes had "misrepresented" the position of Wetherspoons.

He said it "clearly isn't true" that the pub group is facing staff shortages following the reopening of hospitality venues across the UK.

According to The Telegraph, Mr Martin recommended the UK adopt a visa scheme for workers from the EU to help the country's pubs and restaurants hire more staff as they recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

He also suggested countries geographically closer to the UK could be prioritised for the programme.

He said: "The UK has a low birth rate. A reasonably liberal immigration system controlled by those we have elected, as distinct from the EU system, would be a plus for the economy and the country.

“America, Australia and Singapore have benefitted for many decades from this approach. Immigration combined with democracy works."

Mr Martin's comments provoked a bewildered reaction on social media.

Pro-EU campaigner Femi Oluwole wrote: "I really hope Tim Martin never runs into Tim Martin. He's gonna be so angry!"

Labour councillor Freddie Bailey, of Preston City Council, added: "Pro-Brexit Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin has called for more EU migration to tackle the worker shortage.

"Do I really need to say anything?"

In March 2021, Wetherspoons announced it was investing £145 million in new pubs and upgrades in a bid to create 2,000 more jobs.

The month before, when pubs were closed, Mr Martin urged the Government to allow them to reopen at the same time as non-essential retail "to save jobs".

The chain was founded by Mr Martin in 1979 and sells low-priced ales, breakfasts, lunches and dinner.

It currently runs 871 pubs in the UK and Ireland but has seen the number of workers drop over the past year by around 6,000 to almost 38,000.

Mr Martin was one of the most prominent British business voices for leaving the EU ahead of the referendum.

A visa system would make it easier for pubs and restaurants to hire workers from the bloc, with post-Brexit rules making it more difficult for workers in lower-skilled roles to settle in the country.

According to recruitment website Caterer.com, roughly one in 10 hospitality workers have left the sector over the past 12 months, while the industry's trade body, UK Hospitality, estimated a shortfall of about 188,000 workers due to successive lockdowns.