TENSIONS among punters forced a Brexit debate staged by Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin to ‘shut down’ early in Portsmouth today.
The businessman visited the Isambard Kingdom Brunel in Guildhall Walk as part of his 100-leg tour of Wetherspoon pubs to promote the benefits of a no-deal Brexit.
But for the first time the watering hole magnate drew his touring talk to an early close after the ‘biggest level of disruption' he has seen on the road so far.
See the video at the top of the page to watch Tim’s speech.
‘There was a lot of heavy debate and I managed to make my main points in favour of leaving without a deal, which I think is very important,' the 63-year-old said.
‘There were some – I think you could call them professional agitators – who have been following me around as far north as Hull in the past couple of days.
‘That was the biggest level of disruption. Up until now they’ve interrupted a bit, but here they decided to shut it down.’
Mr Martin has visited more than 10 pubs across the UK so far in a bid to quash claims a no-deal Brexit on March 29 will be a ‘disaster’ for the country and his customers.
He told revellers this morning it would mean the UK can avoid paying a £39bn EU divorce bill, eliminate 12,000 tariffs on food, drink and clothes, ‘regain control of its fishing’ and replicate for itself trade deals the nation enjoys as part of the union.
But in a series of fiery exchanges some told him his ideas were ‘nonsense’.
Antonia Harrison from Purbrook, a member of the European Movement, said Mr Martin was ‘stretching the truth’.
‘We already have free trade deals through the EU with something like another 80 countries. The day we leave, we lose all those deals,' she said.
‘I’m sure there is some element of truth in what he says, but lot of what he comes out with is not true at all.’
Another face in the crowd was Jason Hunter – a founder of the popular Brexit debate podcast Three Blokes in a Pub.
He described a no-deal Brexit as a ‘100mph crash with the kids in the back of the car’.
But others got behind what Mr Martin said, before stopping his hour-long talk about 39 minutes in.
Liam Moffat, 63 from Milton, said: ‘I voted to get out of the EU and I can’t see what the problem is.
‘I’ve never met the man in my life but I agree with almost everything Tim was saying.
‘Especially the fishing aspect – that could be good news for our guys down in Portsmouth.’
Despite the unrest, Mr Martin – who has an estimated net worth of £448m – said: ‘It’s a pub, we’re a democracy, these things happen and I quite enjoyed it.’
He added: ‘[A no-deal Brexit] is going to increase the level of democracy.
‘The level of democracy has been lost while we have been in the EU and increasingly so as they seek an ever-closer union.
‘Democracy is economic steroids. Look at West Germany versus East before the EU was created, look at how well Japan did once it became a democracy, look at North Korea versus South. Democracy is the most important factor.’
Finishing today in Southampton and Weymouth, he will travel to Wales tomorrow as his tour continues.