The New European goes undercover at a Wetherspoon’s Brexit debate

Wetherspoon's Tim Martin and The New European's Steve Anglesey. Photograph: Jonathon Read.

Wetherspoon's Tim Martin and The New European's Steve Anglesey. Photograph: Jonathon Read. - Credit: Archant

Pub boss and outspoken Brexiteer Tim Martin is currently embarking on a nationwide tour of his Wetherspoon's pubs across the UK to talk up a no deal Brexit.

Despite a majority of businesses and experts warning that crashing out of the EU would be a disaster, like with Nigel Farage the pub chain owner is buoyed by being able to disagree.

When Tim Martin chose to visit a pub just around the corner from The New European's offices in Norwich, curiosity got the better of us and we ended going along to hear Martin speak. Do people really turn out for these events and, if so, who?

Despite being billed as the pub boss giving a Brexit speech, it was quite clear that it was more of a ramble from the 63-year-old using the rehearsed lines Martin regularly delivers in television appearances.

The clientele when we arrived appeared mostly to be a bunch of significantly pro-Brexit supporters of an older age. It appeared gammon wasn't just being served on the menu, with some sporting handlebar moustaches, and others donning t-shirts celebrating that red bus from the Vote Leave campaign.

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But as Martin began talking the numbers swelled to around 100 some of the crowd began heckling as dubious claims about Brexit Britain were thrown around.

He was actually getting questioned more on what he had to say than during his appearance on Question Time just before Christmas.

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To Martin's credit he didn't take a leaf out of the Trump book and encourage his adoring fans to turn on those that disagree. Instead he remains good-natured and courteous and accepts throughout that they 'may have a point'.

He even went as far as saying he would 'have to read up' on their points - something you would hope he might have done in the first place before making such bold statements on Brexit.

Wetherspoon's Tim Martin and The New European's Steve Anglesey. Photograph: Jonathon Read.

Wetherspoon's Tim Martin and The New European's Steve Anglesey. Photograph: Jonathon Read. - Credit: Archant

Like many Brexiteers, however, it is clear that Martin would rather not read up on all of the facts because they do not suit his agenda. At one point he likened no deal warnings to being like when health professionals told us not to eat butter, and tried to inform his faithful followers that we will still need imports and exports because France doesn't have uranium.

Martin still claims that – despite many claims to the contrary – we will be better off by £600 if we crash out of the EU. In interviews he professed that every household could even be awarded that money, should the government allow.

It appears he knows that he is currently playing a high-risk strategy by using his business to try to advocate something that very few other businesses support. However, he cites company bosses like Ryan Air backing Remain as it being fair game to having a vocal position on Brexit.

In an interview with Steve Anglesey for The New European podcast, the Brexiteer said he thought the Norwich event was 'civil' compared to some of the other events, and that is despite myself feeling like it could escalate into a full-on brawl at any time.

He also refused to be drawn into making predictions about what happens next with Brexit. Some will argue he is no different to any other of the outspoken Brexiteers - too affluent to care about the economic damage it will have on others. However, he does insist that he wants punters to be better off... so they can spend more money in his boozers.

You can see why Brexiteers fawn over Martin, he likes to debate and he does not shy away from publicity.

He even happily posed with a copy of our newspaper for the cameras and took several copies home with him in his bag.

Now that's a significant step further than the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, went. He refused to even touch the newspaper let alone pose with one.

• Listen to The New European's weekly podcast for more from Tim Martin and the Wetherspoon's debate.

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