Remainers’ first response to the news that James Dyson will build his new electric car in Singapore was to accuse him of hypocrisy. Here is a man who expects others to be patriotic, goes the argument, and yet when it comes to his own interests he dumps Britain and takes his business elsewhere. But those who try to make such accusations miss the point entirely. James Dyson has never argued for a protectionist, Britain-first policy. On the contrary, he has always argued for free and open markets. He just happens to think that those markets should extend beyond the borders of Europe.
Singapore has won Dyson’s business because it offers a lower-cost location which will enable the company to compete better in international markets. Over a decade ago Dyson made the same decision with its hoovers – it shifted production to South East Asia. For taking that decision, the company was pilloried by the unions – unions who would presumably have preferred Dyson to founder so long as it kept its British factories open until the last. That Dyson kept its research and development department in the UK – and the thousand jobs which went with it – was lost on its critics. Britain has not been overflowing with manufacturing successes, but it says a lot about the unions that they were prepared to attack a company that has excelled.
There are many Remainers who cannot get out of their heads that Leave-voters are entirely made up of Little Englanders in union jack outfits who have a misplaced notion about the superiority of their nation above all others and who are suspicious of foreigners and foreign-made goods. Such people may exist, but they are hardly typical of the 17 million people who voted Leave in the referendum, and they are certainly not well-represented among the many business leaders who, like James Dyson, came to the conclusion that Britain would be able to turn itself into a better place to do business as an independent nation if it left the EU. That Dyson has chosen Singapore is instructive – its business model has taken it from a third world to first world nation in half a century. Surely anyone who wants Britain to do well will surely want to ask themselves: what is it in Singapore’s economic model that we could emulate?
The Little Englanders are those who oppose the globalisation of trade and manufacturing – those, indeed, who are slamming Dyson’s decision to make his electric car abroad.