Wetherspoon pubs chief warns over EU 'bullying' as sales slow

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The Brexit-backing chairman of JD Wetherspoon has accused European leaders of taking a "bullying" approach to the UK as he warned that sales at the pub chain have slowed.

Tim Martin used a first-quarter trading statement to rip into German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, accusing them of putting European businesses at risk by telling them not to negotiate with UK companies and to adopt an "intransigent" attitude.

"Wetherspoon normally agrees on trade deals with suppliers for three to 10 years. If we, and companies like ours, are unable to agree on tariff-free transactions, it will inevitably result in a loss of business for European companies which have done nothing to deserve this outcome," he said.

Mr Martin, who regularly uses company results announcements to berate Remainers, added that the "ultimate sanction" lies in the hands of British consumers. 

"The ultimate sanction will be in the hands of UK consumers, should they take offence at the hectoring and bullying approach of Juncker and co. French wine, Champagne and spirits, German beer and Swedish cider, for example, are all at extreme risk."

Wetherspoon said like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to October 23 rose 3.5%, but added that the number slowed to 2.3% in the last five weeks of the period.

The company also expects to be hit by higher costs in wages, business rates and repairs, with the level of capital investment in existing pubs rising from £34 million last year to £60 million.