Sir James Dyson’s decision to move his company’s global headquarters to Singapore has been seen by many as a hypocritical move by one of Britain’s most lauded engineers – himself a strong proponent of Brexit. How will this move affect British engineering and is it a sign of things to come?
Critics were quick to point out the apparent hypocrisy arising from the prominent Brexiter’s decision to move Dyson’s headquarters abroad shortly before the date of the UK’s exit from the EU. This news comes after a slew of companies – mostly financial and technology – announcing their departure from the UK, and after Dyson’s own announcement in October of last year that they will be building all of their electric cars in Asia. Reasons cited were lower manufacturing costs and greater access to the growing Asian markets, though Singapore’s recent free trade deal with the EU and the risks of relying on UK supply chains in the event of a disorderly Brexit are also thought to be dominant factors.
A company which was once called a ‘Great British success story’ now describes itself as a ‘global technology company’, but what does this mean for British engineering? Well, the news of Dyson manufacturing overseas should not have been a surprise for anyone, as Dyson ceased manufacturing in the UK in 2003 but retained its research and development base in Wiltshire. In fact, in preparation for the release of its electric cars, Dyson has expanded its Wiltshire operation to a former RAF base in order to focus on battery technologies and robotics, and leading figures at Dyson have stressed that there will be no impact to its 4,000 workers in Britain.
Dyson CEO, Jim Rowan was keen to stress that Dyson will still be investing money into the UK, spending £200m in new buildings, £44m in office refreshes and £31m on its cohort of undergraduates at the Dyson Institute of Technology. It is also safe to say that Dyson’s tax bill in the UK will remain largely unchanged, with James Dyson and his family staying in the UK after it was recently revealed that he is the UK’s third largest taxpayer, contributing £127.8m to the Treasury over the past year.
Whilst Dyson’s R&D operations remain in the UK, British engineering will continue to be bolstered by their presence, but some analysts are anticipating a move to Singapore even for the R&D wing of the business due to Singapore’s favourable tax rates for companies developing technologies within their borders.
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