He backed Brexit for a wheeze – and then, when he realised that it was actually going to happen and the implications for his business sank in, he fled to Singapore. That, very simply, is the Remainer case against Sir James Dyson. But how does it stand up against reality now that Brexit has happened? In an interview with the BBC, Dyson revealed a little more about his decision, in 2019, to relocate his HQ in Singapore, and why he backed Brexit.
No, Sir James has not left Britain. His company still employs around 4,000 people here, and moreover, its Wiltshire operation is expanding. Moving the HQ to Singapore, he says, was not a relocation but an expansion into growing markets. While Dyson continues to develop robotics and artificial intelligence in Britain, the company is developing advanced manufacturing in Singapore and software in the Philippines. Dyson explains: ‘We can develop technology, but understanding what Asians want and what works in the market – we have to be there, we have to be immersed in it.’ He also claims that his earlier decision to shift manufacturing to Asia in the 2000s – which was bitterly attacked by unions at the time – was partly as a result of suppliers in Britain not wanting to expand.
Dyson has burned his fingers, but not in the ways which Remainers asserted. In 2019 he abandoned plans to develop and manufacture an electric car in Singapore on the grounds that it would not be commercially viable. He also took a personal hit when he sold his Singapore penthouse last year for an £8 million loss. But the accusations by Remainers that Dyson is a hypocrite don’t stand up.