How Brexiteers are trying to escape the cost of Brexit

The decision by Leave supporter James Dyson to manufacture his company’s new electric car in Singapore is merely the latest instance of hypocrisy. 

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One of the cardinal rules of politics is to judge people by their actions, not their words. The Brexiteers are a case in point.

James Dyson, the billionaire inventor and Leave supporter, today announced that his company would manufacture its new electric car in Singapore, rather than Brexit Britain. Only a week earlier, Dyson had denounced rival firms for their warnings over a no-deal Brexit, insisting that it would “not change anything”.

Dyson is far from the first Leaver to adopt this opportunistic approach. In July, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s investment firm Somerset Capital conveniently launched a second Irish-based fund (the Brexiteer reaps £14,500 a month for his work).

Earlier this year, the company warned: “During, and possibly after, this period there is likely to be considerable uncertainty as to the position of the UK and the arrangements which will apply to its relationships with the EU.” It added: “As [the firm is] based in the UK and a fund’s investments may be located in the UK or the EU, a fund may as a result be affected by the events described above.”

In a similar spirit, Tory Brexiteer John Redwood, who earns £180,000 a year as chief global strategist for investment management firm Charles Stanley, advised UK investors in November 2017 to “look further afield” owing to the British economy’s weakness.

Michael Ashcroft, the billionaire Tory peer and former donor, has advised UK businesses to establish bases in Malta to compensate for the “period of uncertainty” caused by Brexit. Nigel Lawson, who chaired the Vote Leave campaign, has chosen this moment to apply for French residency having long retained a mansion in Gascony.

All of this, to put it mildly, does not resemble a vote of confidence in Britain’s supposedly golden future. But while those with financial means are advised to shield themselves from the cost of Brexit, voters are told that they must accept any deal (or no-deal) - whatever the cost.

Leavers, with some justification, routinely assail the Brussels “elite” of pampered bureaucrats and overpaid lobbyists. But as they support an economically destructive project - with little concern for others’ well-being - they resemble the hypocritical establishment they denounce.

“I think we are heading to WTO and I think WTO is nothing to be frightened of,” Rees-Mogg has said. Trading under World Trade Organisation rules, as the Tory MP suggests, sounds innocuous – but its consequences would not be. The UK would be left as the only state in the world acting on this basis and incur punitive tariffs (Mauritania, which previously held this status, has recently signed 20 preferential trade agreements). Only for these Brexiteers, with their golden parachutes, is the future nothing to be frightened of.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.