Britain should make a “clean break” from the European Union instead of pursuing any kind of interim deal, according to one of the country’s best-known businessmen.
Sir James Dyson told Sky News that a transitional agreement would be “a muddle”.
“You end up having to do one transitional arrangement, and then another one. So just have a clean break, it’s not a big deal.”
Sir James, who backed the Brexit campaign in 2016, said he was comfortable with Britain instead switching to the tariff system used by the World Trade Organisation, and to turning its attention away from Europe.
“Europe is a declining part of world trade,” he said.
“It’s now down to 12% and in about five years’ time it will be 9% of world trade. The fastest growing sector is, of course, in the far east, China and the far eastern countries where we’re growing by about 80% or 90% a year. That’s where the opportunities are – not Europe.”
Sir James said he had no regrets about Brexit but stressed the need for international talent.
Dyson employs around 3,500 people in the UK, and that figure is expected to almost double in the coming four or five years.
To help feed that growth, Dyson has plans to recruit a huge number of engineers, but Sir James said he often struggled to find recruits in this country who had the appropriate skills.
His solution is a bold one.
Dyson is investing in creating a university on the site of his company’s huge Wiltshire campus. Students will be paid to work, but will also complete an undergraduate degree in engineering.
He said: “There is a huge shortage of engineers in Britain – it’s estimated we’ll be two million engineers short by 2022 – but more interestingly we’re short of very good engineers. We want to develop the best tech in the world and make products that conquer the world.
“It’s blindingly obvious that we need to take on more engineers, and if people study here then they’ll be learning from some of the best in the world.” It is, he says, Britain’s first new university for 40 years.
It is also a response to a changing world.
Sir James fears that Britain has lost its passion for engineering, and embraced “soft subjects” instead.
The nation of Brunel and Stephenson, he fears, is being left behind.
“It’s a major game of catch up, because even the Philippines produces more engineers than we do, and so does Mexico.
“In our schools we’ve lost interest in engineering. As a nation, we have lost confidence in grand engineering projects.”
He thinks there should be no restrictions on overseas students coming to the UK, saying that 60% of engineering students in UK universities are coming from outside the EU.
The first intake of students who will study at his own institute are all British, but he says that will change in the coming years.