While no one seems sure what the consequences of Brexit will actually be, other than a lot of faff and bother for all involved, few would have expected it to mean reduced access to French fizz. Few also could surely have expected to see the words Wetherspoons, Brexit, and champagne in one sentence, and yet hear we are. The news that Wetherspoons will stop selling champagne because of Brexit has landed and this unexpected consequence might soon become a reality.
The chain with what feels like a pub on almost every street corner in Britain revealed it's set to replace the traditional sparkling wine with alternatives from English vineyards and begin stocking beers from British and Australian breweries rather than those made in the EU.
None of Wetherspoons' 880 branches will be spared the champagne ban from July 9 onwards, which means there's just a few weeks left to enjoy a budget glass of bubbly at the establishments, so get in quick. According to chairman Tim Martin the move is an effort to "broaden [the chain's] horizons", but it's also very likely got something to do with his strong pro-Brexit stance. As Business Insider reports, 500,000 beer mats printed with pro-Brexit manifestos were installed in the pubs' branches in November 2017, and Martin donated £200,000 to the Leave campaign in the lead up to the 2016 referendum, The Independent reports.
In a statement reported by the Guardian, he explained he hoped the alternatives would offer better value to his customers, by avoiding EU tariffs imports are likely to face after Brexit.
"The EU's customs union is a protectionist system which is widely misunderstood," he commented. "It imposes tariffs on the 93 per cent of the world that is not in the EU, keeping prices high for UK consumers. Tariffs are imposed on wine from Australia, New Zealand and the US, and also on coffee, oranges, rice and more than 12,000 other products.
But don't expect to see all of your continental favourites like German beer disappearing from Wetherspoons, some will be sticking around for a while due to existing contracts.
Martin continued: "There will be an inevitable transfer of trade post-Brexit to countries outside the EU, which will reduce prices in shops and pubs. The products we are now introducing are at lower prices than the EU products they are replacing. We intend to honour existing contracts with EU suppliers, some of which have several years to run."
So what will a Wetherspoons drinks menu look like without champagne and EU-brewed beers? Well, decidedly more British, with a few Aussie specials on the side. UK sparkling wines on offer will include Denbies Sparkling Whitedowns Brut and Whitedowns Rose Brut, as well as Hardys Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay from Australia.
The pubs will also serve beers from the UK — Blue Moon Belgian White, Thornbridge Versa Weisse Beer, and SA Brains Atlantic White. Alcohol-free Adnams Ghost Ship will replace Erdinger alcohol-free beer from Germany. Products like Kopperberg, a Swedish cider, will still be sold as the company confirmed it would continue to produce the beverage in the UK after Brexit.
Over on social media, many were surprised to discover that 'Spoons ever sold champagne in the first place. And others pointed out that the pubs, which are known for their low prices, were perhaps not the first port of call for champagne drinkers anyway.
While others saw the positive side, and hoped the move would boost the UK's wine industry.
Either way, if you were thinking of raising a glass of champers to our exit from the EU, or drowning your sorrows with a bottle of the stuff on Article 50 day, Wetherspoons can't help you with that. Call it the first casualty of Brexit, let's just hope Tesco doesn't stop stocking croissants, or god forbid, brie!