Dyson Sucks & a Power Vacuum in Venezuela
Illustration by Rhiannon Powell
Every week I look over the headlines, read the comment pieces, and follow the analysis to bring you a summary of the most important stories of the week. Although often a depressing task (especially in the current climate) it is not often that a story will really make me angry. This week, however, is an exception. Cast your mind back to the horror that was the 2016 EU referendum campaign, amid the cries of remain from business leaders, one British manufacturing icon stood out. Sir James Dyson, the founder and sole owner of the Dyson vacuum cleaner brand advocated strongly for Brexit. He argued that by standing alone in the world, British industry could compete far better with the rest of the world and promised that Dyson would lead the charge on these new sunlit uplands of free trade and closed borders.
Sir James, 71, owns 100% of Dyson and over the years it has given him a personal fortune of £9.5bn making him pretty comfortable whichever way the vote went. The company's headquarters is currently in Wiltshire where it offers many people from the local area jobs and in 2014 Sir James promised an extra £1.9bn investment in the UK. After all this, you'd think that, with the country voting to leave the EU, Dyson would be one of the few UK based, international businesses on which we could rely in whatever post-apocalyptic landscape emerges from the negotiations. Alas, this week, in what I can only describe as a move of staggering hypocrisy, Dyson has announced its plans to move its headquarters to Singapore just as the UK is finally about to leave the EU. The company has already moved much of its production to Singapore and is planning on investing £2.5bn in a new plant there - significantly more than the £1.9bn promised to the UK. This new decision to also move their HQ has been seen by many as a huge vote of no confidence in post-Brexit Britain, a situation for which Sir James both voted and campaigned.
The company stated that this decision was not made due to Brexit nor the UK tax rate. However, corporate tax is 2% lower in Singapore than it is in the UK and on top of that they have no capital gains or inheritance tax - in short, Singapore does offer Dyson a significant tax break. To top this all off the move was decided on shortly after the EU and Singapore signed an extensive bilateral trade deal...remember when the UK used to have one of those before Sir James Dyson (that old dust bag) told us we should throw it away? Frankly, the whole situation sucks.
While Brexit stagnates further in the UK, Venezuela is seeing seismic political change. Just a brief look at Venezuela's recent history makes British politics look heavenly as President Nicolás Maduro faces a coup that has international backing. Maduro has been President since 2013 and over the last six years he has transformed himself into a kind of socialist dictator as around him the economy of his country collapsed - it’s almost like socialist dictatorships don't work! Who would have thought it? Venezuela has recently seen hyperinflation of the scale of the Weimar Republic with daily commodities being worth billions of Venezuelan bolívares. As a result, over three million of Maduro's citizens have packed up and left the country. It was only a few weeks ago that Maduro was re-elected, not because the people wanted him but because he banned many opposition candidates from running, causing the rest to boycott the election.
As a result, this week opposition leader and the leader of the legislature, Juan Guaidó, declared himself acting president and said he would assume all the powers of the office in the name of the millions of anti-Maduro protesters who have been on the streets of all Venezuelan cities this week. Although a powerful statement, in reality, this changes nothing as Maduro remains in office with control of the military. But things were escalated somewhat by our beloved cheese puff, US President Donald Trump when he officially recognised Guaidó as the President of Venezuela. Only time will tell if this will be another flash in the pan of the South American coup or if it’s the start of something bigger. There are suggestions that Russia may back Maduro which will no doubt escalate things further - Russia seems to be rather good at doing that these days.
I would tell you what’s coming next week, but at this point, it’s anyone’s guess!