Wetherspoon boss calls for EU worker visa

Tim Martin at a 'Leave Means Leave' rally in 2018.
WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

JD Wetherspoon boss and pro-Brexit campaigner Tim Martin has urged the government to introduce a visa specifically for EU workers, amid a shortage of staff in pubs and restaurants.

He said the government should bring in a “reasonably liberal immigration system”, controlled by the UK rather than the EU, which would give preferential treatment to workers from countries that are geographically closer to the UK.

This would make it easier for pubs and restaurants to hire workers from the EU, as the new post-Brexit immigration system makes it more difficult for employers to fill vacancies for lower-skilled roles with workers from overseas.

Martin told the Telegraph: “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.”

The hospitality sector has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and has lost significant numbers of staff through numerous lockdowns. Trade body UKHospitality has estimated that the industry is short of 188,000 workers, with around 9% of posts currently vacant.

The bosses of City Pub Group and TGI Fridays also told the Telegraph that the inability to fill roles had made reopening after lockdown difficult for pubs and restaurants.

Clive Watson, executive chairman of the City Pub Group, said: “There are just not the bodies out there to perform roles in the hospitality industry, to the extent that some places are now not opening at lunchtime.

“They are having to not open as long as they’d like to. And given the industry has had six months of closure, it does seem like another kick in the wotsits because of this situation.”

TGI Fridays chief executive Robert Cook said pandemic-related challenges and Brexit hiring difficulties were “a perfect storm” for the industry.

“There’s the arduous process of hiring from the EU and the change of statuses around the new visa process, which is more cumbersome and less user friendly. Other people are not moving back here because of the situation with Covid,” he said.

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3 Responses to Wetherspoon boss calls for EU worker visa

  1. Avatar
    Ex Customef 2 Jun 2021 at 4:13 pm #

    And who used his pubs to push out Brexit propaganda?
    Arguably he has got exactly what he wanted (and deserved) many hardworking Europeans interpreted the message as ‘you’re not welcome’ and pursued other opportunities. And let’s not forget this is the CEO who, at the height of the pandemic, told his staff ‘You might as well get a job in Tesco’

  2. Avatar
    David Coveney 2 Jun 2021 at 5:56 pm #

    Honestly, as an employer with EU staff (who are still happy to work with us) this gave me a good laugh because it was so painfully predictable. Tim Martin pretends like he’s a super-astute businessman but let’s just really tight. And I warned that firms like this (and ours) would struggle with visa requirements, but Brexit was partly won on jingoism and promises of more income for British voters.

    However, we sorted ourselves as visa sponsors and he didn’t. We also pay more, though the higher thresholds are a tricky for hiring juniors.

  3. Avatar
    Jon Randles 4 Jun 2021 at 1:51 pm #

    I completely agree with the very well articulated responses. Tim Martin is a victim of his own success I’m afraid. He appears to want to make up rules that suit him and his business. Wouldn’t it have been easier and more cost effective to have left all well alone in the first place?

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