UK pub chain snubs Champagne, Prosecco ahead of Brexit

LONDON — A major U.K. pub chain will stop serving French Champagne, Italian Prosecco, and German wheat beers and offer more British drinks ahead of the country's exit from the European Union.

Tim Martin, the founder of the JD Wetherspoon chain and a strong advocate for Brexit, said Wednesday that the aim is to make the business more competitive for when Brexit becomes a reality.

The move, which comes into force next month, seems to be as much a political point as a business decision.

Last year, Wetherspoon sold 2 million bottles of Prosecco, 500,000 bottles of German wheat beer, and 100,000 bottles of Champagne. By comparison, it sold 6 million bottles of the Swedish cider Kopparberg, which it is not blocking, even though Sweden is also in the EU.

As part of the EU, Britain pays no tariffs on EU goods it imports. That could change if Britain exits the EU customs union when it leaves the bloc.

Wednesday's announcement coincides with the British Parliament's frantic discussion over legislation preparing the U.K. for Brexit. One of the issues that will be debated is whether Britain remains in the customs union.

Martin says his company should make the most of "big marketing opportunities for U.K. and non-EU producers" that will result from Brexit.

Martin is notoriously in favor of leaving the EU, saying recently that it is a "protection racket" that "steals from the poor and gives to the rich."

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