Wetherspoon’s Tim Martin joins Andrea Leadsom for Brexit discussion

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom has held a Brexit roundtable with company bosses including the no-deal supporting founder of the Wetherspoon pub chain.

The Leave-backer, who was promoted in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle, was said to have stressed that the UK would be out of the EU by the October 31 deadline.

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said, during the approximately two-hour meeting in Whitehall on Wednesday morning, that the businesses were largely supportive of the message.

Brexit
New Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom (Aaron Chown/PA)

But it came after the pound plummeted over the new Prime Minister’s hardening no-deal rhetoric and continued warnings over its potential impact on the economy.

Construction firm Laing O’Rourke, which believes that no-deal poses no threat to the industry, was also in the room, but one official stressed the meeting was supposed to bring together a broad church of voices.

Mr Martin said the room welcomed an “open discussion” with businesses and criticised the previous government for working “behind closed doors”.

He told PA: “The Government side opened up by saying that we were definitely going to leave on October 31..

“My main pitch, which the room was strongly behind, is you may call it leaving if you sign a Withdrawal Agreement minus the backstop but the public won’t call it leaving.

“The acid test for leaving is whether you leave the customs union, and that was my pitch. And I was surprised that people were with me over this.”

Tory leadership race
Boris Johnson and Tim Martin at one of the Wetherspoon boss’s pubs (Henry Nicholls/PA)

Ms Leadsom, who was among a tranche of Vote Leave campaigners to receive top jobs under the new Prime Minister, agreed with this sentiment, according to Mr Martin.

Her position is a stark contrast to that of her predecessor, Greg Clark, who cautioned that a no-deal would cost “many thousands of jobs”.

The Government spending watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, has warned that no-deal could force the UK into recession and increase borrowing by £30 billion a year even under a conservative estimate.

The backstop emergency measure to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland remains a major point of contention for the UK in leaving with a deal.

The PM and his Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, clashed over the issue during their first phone call with Mr Johnson as leader.

The Taoiseach said the backstop was essential as a “consequence of decisions taken in the UK”, while Mr Johnson warned that it had to be abolished, according to officials.

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