Public backlash in Britain over Dyson's HQ relocation to Singapore

Dyson's billionaire founder, Sir James Dyson, was one of the key voices from the business world who backed the campaign for Britain to leave the EU.
Dyson's billionaire founder, Sir James Dyson, was one of the key voices from the business world who backed the campaign for Britain to leave the EU.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

British technology company Dyson has been hit by a public backlash over its decision to move its headquarters to Singapore, with many in Britain labelling its billionaire founder, Sir James Dyson, a hypocrite.

Mr Dyson was one of the prominent voices from the business world who supported the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union (EU), arguing that the country would benefit from being outside the bloc.

Though he stated that the decision announced on Tuesday was not related to Brexit, a number of politicians and ordinary citi-zens slammed him for "betrayal of the public".

Many noted that the move comes in the wake of Singapore signing a free trade deal with the EU, whereas Britain's post-Brexit trading relationship with the EU remains unclear.

Mr Sam Gyimah, a Conservative MP, delivered scathing criticism on Twitter. "Dyson's decision to move his HQ to Singapore reflects his narrow business interest. This is not just a transfer of two people. When HQs move, so does the intellectual property. Betrayal of the public who put their faith in him as a British business advocating a no-deal Brexit," he wrote.

Labour lawmaker Wes Streeting accused Mr Dyson of "rank hypocrisy" on Twitter, alleging that he has "no sense of responsibility to his workers or to his country".

Mr Jason Beattie, head of campaigns at the Daily Mirror, noted: "Dyson group paid £155 million (S$275 million) in tax in the UK in 2017 and £388 million in 2016. Money which could fund schools, hospitals and universities now going to the Singapore treasury."

 
 
 

Mr Tom Kibasi, director of the Institute for Public Policy Research in Britain, wrote on Twitter: "James Dyson's lack of social obligation is an utter disgrace. His business succeeded because of this country. Complete absence of gratitude to workers, taxpayers, innovators, creators. Shameful."

A large number of users urged Britons to boycott Dyson products over the decision.

"Does anyone else feel like they have been mugged off, or is it just me? There was #Dyson making out that #Brexit would be great, next thing we know, he mumbles about future-proofing his business and scuttles off. Let's hope #British consumers have long memories, Mr Dyson," wrote @riceytravels.

Others called for Mr Dyson to return his knighthood or for it to be rescinded.

Dr Jennifer Cassidy, a politics lecturer at Oxford University, tweeted: "The wealthy like James Dyson belong to a Britain that, for most, simply doesn't exist. They speak of freedom, of sovereignty, of borders. But for so many, freedom is having food on the table, a roof over your head and safety for your family. This is something they will never know."

Despite the majority of voices on social media attacking the decision to relocate, there was some support for the company.

"Dyson hasn't deserted Britain... two senior executives are moving to Singapore and there is no impact on UK production or research and development. This is pretty desperate stuff from the Remain lot. If anything, it is a sign that the UK must become more competitive," wrote Twitter user @darrengrimes_.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2019, with the headline 'Public backlash in Britain over relocating HQ'. Print Edition | Subscribe