Author: Jaine Organ
Pictures: Jaine Organ

No one can truly predict the outcome of Brexit. The many differing views on Brexit and the potential effects on the beer industry reflect the numerous arguments around the process itself. In this two-part blog we look at opinions ranging from low-cost, pub chain founder Tim Martin with his pro-Leave beer mats; prominent beer writers and bloggers attempting to keep politics out of beer; trade associations continuing to campaign for reductions in beer duty and business rates through to the Bristol-based brewer Moor, with a pan-European, Citizens of Everywhere craft beer collaboration.

The pub chain

Vocal pro-Brexit supporter, Tim Martin, heads up Wetherspoons with over 900 venues and a ‘pile them high and sell them cheap approach’ to drinks and food. In August 2018, he announced he would be de-stocking European products and replacing them with British and non-EU equivalents including Australian and American brandy. Martin has pulled several attention-grabbing stunts including printing and distributing in his pubs 500,000 beer mats supporting a no-deal Brexit and posting a magazine with a pro-Brexit front cover through thousands of doors. There’s little mention of the 3,500 non-UK staff he employs though he recently faced a backlash with staff forming ‘Spoons Workers Against Brexit’ which is campaigning for a living wage as well as refusing to distribute pro-Brexit propaganda.

The consumer campaigning body

CAMRA, Campaign for Real Ale, is a not-for profit, consumer group, set up in the 1970s with over 190 thousand members campaigning on beer, cider and pub issues. In February 2019, CAMRA central office posted a pro-Brexit article on social media from the traditionally Conservative party supporting newspaper, Daily Telegraph, on how cutting duty could save pubs. Several prominent beer bloggers posted counter-arguments and mentioned that CAMRA has a non-party political ethos. Many regional CAMRA offices distanced themselves from the post. At the AGM in early April, they seemed to keep well away from the arguments with main resolutions focusing on clear definitions of cider and reduction of single use plastics.

The trade associations – BBPA

BBPA, British Beer and Pub Association, represents 90% of UK brewing (by volume) and the ownership of around 20,000 of the nation’s pubs. The latest Facts on Tap 2018, produced in conjunction with SIBA and CAMRA, shows a sixth of the pub workforce are non-UK nationals, 43% are aged between 16-24 and 14 million overseas tourists visit a UK pub each year. In 2016, it published a ‘Brexit manifesto’ calling for the UK government to support the beer industry and mitigate the effects of leaving the EU by countering the effects of high taxes and regulatory burdens, protecting the rights of existing overseas workers and ensuring any future agreements support the necessary levels of staffing needed for the sector. Chief Executive Brigid Simmons recently stressed ‘that certainty for business was crucial and a no-deal Brexit should be avoided at all costs’.

In part two, we consider the impact of Brexit on craft breweries, see how Moor’s pan-European collaboration worked out and visit breweries in London set up by non-UK nationals.