Billionaire entrepreneur James Dyson came out on Friday in favour of Britain leaving the European Union (EU), a significant endorsement for the “Leave” camp less than two weeks before the upcoming referendum.
The “Remain” campaign has received the backing of many well-known business leaders, big companies and banks as well as institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. Its “Leave” rivals have attracted less support from the ranks of big business.
James Dyson (pictured above at his factory with Prime Minister David Cameron), best known for inventing a bagless vacuum cleaner that made him a household name across Britain, told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that Britain has more to gain than to lose by quitting the EU.
“We will create more wealth and more jobs by being outside the EU than we will within it, and we will be in control of our destiny. And control, I think, is the most important thing in life and business,” Mr. Dyson was quoted as saying.
He dismissed warnings about the possible impact of a Brexit on trade, saying:
“When the Remain campaign tells us no one will trade with us if we leave the EU, sorry, it’s absolute cobblers. Our trade imbalance with Europe is running at nine billion a month and rising. If this trend continues, that is £100bn a year.
“If, as David Cameron suggested, they imposed a tariff of 10 per cent on us, we will do the same in return. We buy more from Europe than they buy from us, so we would be the net beneficiary and based on these numbers it would bring £10bn into the UK annually. Added to our net EU contribution, it would make us around £18.5bn better off each year if we left the EU.”
He added that “the EU would be committing commercial suicide to impose a tariff because we import £100bn [of goods] and we only send £10bn there.”
Mr. Dyson also referred to the fact that the European market is not as significant as some make out. Explaining that his business exports far more to the rest of he world (81 per cent) than Europe (19 per cent), he said: “We’re very pleased with the European market – we’re number one in Germany and France – but it’s small and the real growing and exciting markets are outside Europe.”
In a boost for calls for an Australian points-based system of immigration to replace the EU’s free movement of people, Mr. Dyson spoke of how the rules actively prevent him from hiring the skilled engineers his business needs:
“We’re not allowed to employ them, unless they’re from the EU. At the moment, if we want to hire a foreign engineer, it takes four and a half months to go through the Home Office procedure. It’s crazy…
“Sixty per cent of engineering undergraduates at British universities are from outside the EU, and 90 per cent of people doing research in science and engineering at British universities are from outside the EU. And we chuck them out!”
Mr. Dyson bemoaned the fact those researchers then take back that valuable technology to China or Singapore and use it against British companies.
It is not all about the economics, however. How the UK has treated former Commonwealth allies also rankles with Mr. Dyson.
“They fought for us in two world wars. So that particularly upsets me,” he said. “We’re missing out on all those people who have helped us and with whom we have a great affinity, often a common language.
“Culturally, it’s all wrong. We’re not only excluding them from our country, we’re charging them import duty because we’re forced to by the EU. And the food’s cheaper, too.”
Mr. Dyson also illustrated how the much-vaunted ‘voice at the heart of Europe’ argument to Remain in order to influence the direction of the EU is false. He said his business sits on several European committees, but “we’ve never once during 25 years ever got any clause or measure that we wanted into a European directive. Never once have we been able to block the slightest thing.”
He said the committee sessions are dominated by very large companies who agree on their approach beforehand and vote together as a bloc, “and that’s why we never get anywhere.”
Although he is a supporter of Mr. Cameron and George Osborne in other ways, he differs with them about the EU.
“It’s just that on this issue I think they’re fundamentally wrong,” he said. “I don’t just mean from the business point of view, I mean from the point of view of sovereignty and our whole ability to govern ourselves. We will create more wealth and more jobs by being outside the EU than we will within it and we will be in control of our destiny. And control, I think, is the most important thing in life and business.”
Even worse, Mr. Dyson says that despite opponents suggesting Brexit is a ‘risky’ option, staying in the EU is the actively bad decision:
“There is no status quo. Europe’s going to change.
“We all take risks, but they’re very calculated risks. The last thing I would ever want to do is to put myself in somebody else’s hands. So for me the risk is in putting ourselves in the hands of Europe. Not just the other countries, but the Brussels bureaucrats.
“What I simply can’t understand is why anyone would want to put themselves under their control.”
Reuters contributed to this report.