The Guardian

Sir James Dyson dismisses EU tariff fears of hard Brexit

The Guardian


Sir James Dyson , the billionaire inventor, has said it would not be a "catastrophe" if Britain cannot agree a deal to remain part of the European single market and has to pay tariffs on exported goods.

Dyson, one of the most prominent business supporters of Brexit before the referendum , said that the British economy and its companies are doing "rather better than everybody thought" since the vote .

The entrepreneur said that politicians and economists who warned that the economy would struggle if Britain voted to leave the EU have already been proved wrong. He said the decline in the pound's value had been a "huge benefit" to Dyson , which exports 95% of its products, but that the currency was "artificially low" after being "talked down" and will "shoot back up again".

"They told us there would be an immediate catastrophe, and there hasn't been," he said. "I don't see why there should be, either. Nothing has changed, has it? The worst that could happen is a small tariff going to Europe.

"We are very fond of Europe as a market, but there are very exciting markets outside Europe. So I hope we do a deal with Europe. But it's not a catastrophe if we don't."

The inventor was speaking as he unveiled the new Dyson Institute of Technology, which will offer engineering degrees at the company's headquarters in Wiltshire, south-west England. Dyson has committed to investing 15m pounds in the institute over the next five years and the degree has been developed in conjunction with the Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick.

The institute will open next September with an initial intake of at least 25 students. Dyson will fund the tuition fees of students and intends to offer them a full-time graduate position in the firm at the end of the four-year course. The project is designed to help Britain fill its growing shortfall of engineers, which is forecast to stand at one million engineers by 2020.

"I have complained to every secretary of state for education and every secretary of state for BIS for the last 20 years, saying there aren't enough engineering graduates," Dyson said. "I went and complained to Jo Johnson , and he said, 'Well, why don't you do a university?' I had never thought of it and it was quite a bold suggestion."

One reason Dyson said he supported Brexit was so that the UK can potentially bring in more engineers and scientists from outside the EU. He is pressing the government for an "Australian-style visa system" under which engineers, scientists and university students studying these topics will receive automatic visas. Dyson will hold talks with Theresa May and Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, next week.

Dyson said the new institute will allow students to stay in the country at the end of their degree because of the prospect of a job at the company.

"At the moment we have to get visas that take about four months for anyone outside the EU, which is a painful process and probably puts some people off," he said. "With the university, that won't be an issue under the current rules, but they might change. I will be badgering the government all the time that we need these people."