Sir James Dyson is one of Britain's most celebrated inventors and entrepreneurs - and rightly so.
He has invested billions in UK-based research and development, collaborated with dozens of universities, championed design and engineering, ploughed vast sums into pushing the boundaries of robotics and artificial intelligence, employed thousands of people, backed apprenticeships and training schemes and has even built a new university in Wiltshire – the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology.
He also happens to be a Brexiter, which for some people means his achievements and endeavours are now obscured by the fact that he's backed 'the wrong side.'
Yesterday, his critics seized on the news that he intends to manufacture his electric cars (his latest venture) in Singapore, rather than the UK. “You see,” his opponents cried, “he doesn't believe in Britain at all!” Former Labour spin doctor (now full-time anti-Brexit tweeter) Alastair Campbell dismissed Dyson yesterday as a hypocrite, before having a pop at the Dyson hand-dryers: “I've never met anyone with dry hands after using one.” A columnist at The Economist, meanwhile, went even further – declaring that Dyson was “off to Singapore” having “played a jolly board game with ordinary Britons' jobs and livelihoods as the counters.”
Just last month this columnist's editor was debating former Trump strategist Steve Bannon and standing up (with great clarity and conviction) for the principles of globalisation and free-trade. Dyson's decision to conduct the research, development and testing of his electric cars in the UK while manufacturing them in Asia and selling them all over the world ought be held up as a great example of globalism, and the anti-Brexit commentators suggesting that Dyson should put his money where his mouth is and make his cars in the UK are essentially advocating economic nationalism.
People are entitled to disagree with his support for Brexit, but it should be recognised that for Dyson, and for many others, Brexit isn't about retreating in on ourselves – it's about stepping out into the world and capitalising on new markets. By boosting his manufacturing presence in Asia Dyson is doing exactly that – while remaining committed to his projects here in the UK.
Regardless of Brexit we could do with a few more James Dysons, and fewer Alastair Campbells.