June 2, 2021 - 11:47am

Diehard Remainers are the worst losers is modern British history. Their refusal to accept the result of the referendum has had a warping effect on our politics. It has destroyed any chance of securing a softer Brexit; it has done lasting, perhaps fatal, damage to the Labour Party; and it manifests itself as a deranged hatred of certain individuals.

Needless to say, Boris Johnson is hate figure number one. But there’s a strong case that number two on the list is not a politician, but the founder and chairman of Wetherspoons, Tim Martin. 

A bluntly outspoken advocate of Brexit, Martin very visibly deviated from ‘project fear’ efforts of the pro-Remain business establishment. Even worse than that, both he and Wetherspoons are symbols of cultural non-conformity. The London elites do not in fact exercise a hegemonic influence over the lives and loyalties of the nation. Millions of people have ideas and passions other than those promoted by the cultural establishment, and furthermore they have the vote — as they demonstrated on the 23 June 2016.

The leaders of the rebellion have never been forgiven. When any opportunity arises to attack them, it is gleefully — and thoughtlessly — taken. And so, when Tim Martin was quoted among the leaders of the hospitality sector calling for more immigration (in order to deal with staff shortages), the haters couldn’t believe their luck. 

Over the last 24 hours, the internet has echoed to the sound of cheap shots — variations on the theme that Martin is either a hypocrite or a poetically justified victim of his own politics.

Which goes to show that over the last five years, the Remain diehards have learned absolutely nothing. As always, they deliberately confuse the principle of British control over British borders with a policy of closed borders; and controlled immigration with no immigration. 

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that the Leave argument all along was that this most sensitive and complicated of issues ought to decided on a national basis. And that far from encouraging extremism, control by democratically accountable national governments is by far the most effective way of fighting it. 

It’s absolutely right that business leaders like Tim Martin should put the case for a more liberal immigration policy — especially as it relates to the specific and extraordinary circumstances faced by the hospitality sector today.

It’s also right that we should ask why industries like his own are so dependent on overseas labour — and whether higher wages might not be a better way of attracting the necessary personnel. 

These are vitally important arguments that we should not only be having — but also deciding upon — as a nation. And, thanks to Brexit, we can.

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.