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Wetherspoons founder plays down role of Brexit in beer shortages at pubs

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Wetherspoons founder Tim Martin has denounced “strenuous efforts” being made to link beer shortages with Brexit.

The chain has apologised to customers after supplies of Heineken, Carling and Coors ran out in some of its pubs.

Mr Martin, who was strongly in favour of the UK leaving the EU, said pumps had run dry mainly because of industrial action in recent weeks by drivers and warehouse staff acting on behalf of Heineken.

Wetherspoon pub
Image: Some Wetherspoons pubs have been running short of Carling and Coors

Britain is not the only country suffering from “supply chain issues” following the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

“It has been widely reported that there are shortages of 400,000 HGV drivers in Germany, France and Spain, for example,” he added.

“Strenuous efforts are being made to link supply issues to Brexit.

“In this case the main link relates to industrial action. Brexit gave the power to the UK government to allow more HGV drivers in, should it choose to do so.”

More on Wetherspoons

Customers bought more pints of Carling and Coors when industrial action affected deliveries from Heineken, a Wetherspoons spokesman said.

Heineken, the group’s biggest supplier, is behind six of the 23 draught lines Wetherspoons usually offers.

Wetherspoon
Image: The group has apologised to customers

A spokesman for Molson Coors, which produces Carling and Coors, said the company had been “hit by the HGV driver shortage”.

“While overall our availability is good, there are intermittent pockets of pressure in our supply network that are unfortunately affecting a number of Wetherspoons pubs,” he added.

“We’re working around the clock with our customers and third-party logistics partners to ensure we minimise any impact to our customers.”

A spokeswoman for fellow brewer Carlsberg Marston’s said it “remains an incredibly challenging time”.

She added: “Like many other brewers in the UK, we remain impacted by the ongoing shortage of qualified HGV drivers and urgent government intervention is required to address this in the immediate term.”

There is a shortage of about 100,000 truck drivers, the Road Haulage Association said last week.

It pointed out that thousands of European drivers had left during the pandemic and not returned.

It called on ministers to add drivers to the Shortage Occupation List to make it easier for overseas workers to help fill the gaps.