JD Wetherspoon Pubs Chairman Martin Bellies Up Behind 'Brexit'

  • `Faceless bureaucrats' shouldn't police immigration: Martin
  • Company founder has also been outspoken on beer taxes

Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon Plc.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Tim Martin, chairman of U.K. pub operator JD Wetherspoon Plc, came out in support of Britain exiting the European Union, a rare instance of a corporate leader publicly siding with those favoring a split.

QuickTake Will Britain Leave the EU?

“The main issue in most people’s minds in the in-or-out EU debate is immigration,”  Martin said Friday in a letter tacked onto the company’s results for the first half of its fiscal year. “It makes no sense in the U.K. for these sensitive issues to be decided by faceless bureaucrats in Brussels, when we’re just as capable of deciding ourselves.”

Martin’s comments come with just over 100 days left until Britain’s referendum on leaving the EU, which this week ensnared Queen Elizabeth II and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, whose officially neutral positions were scrutinized. Martin, who founded Wetherspoons in 1979, has also used his company’s results statements to weigh in on issues like the U.K.’s beer tax policy, which he says is skewed in favor of supermarkets.

“Clearly, if the U.K. decides to leave the EU, it would be in the economic and other interests of this country and our European neighbors to have friendly relations, strong business links, including free trade and, I believe, free movement of labor,” Martin said.

Watford, England-based Wetherspoon, which operates about 1,000 pubs in the U.K. and Ireland, also reported a 6.2 percent increase in first-half sales, helped by new craft beers and an enhanced food menu.

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