James Dyson hoovers up £3.7m in EU handouts amid claims of Brexit hypocrisy

James Dyson

A company owned by Sir James Dyson bagged the biggest EU farming subsidy paid to a private landowner in the UK last year.

The billionaire, whose bagless vacuum cleaner business announced it was moving its HQ from Britain to Singapore last year, had £3.7million from Brussels ploughed into his farm firm.

It means the EU has now diverted £8.7m into the coffers of the agricultural operation, Beeswax Dyson, since the Brexit vote in 2016.

Payouts to rich farmers – chicken feed compared to Mr Dyson’s estimated £16.2billion fortune – were branded “outrageous” by a top economist.

Official figures show Beeswax Dyson received £2,957,872 in EU direct aid subsidies, which are weighted according to the amount of land owned.

It also received £762,212 in rural development funding in the year to October 15 2019.

The total was an increase of more than £1m on the previous year.

More than £3bn is paid out in farming subsidies each year in the UK – but the top 10 per cent of recipients receive more than half the cash.

Ian Bateman, Professor of Environmental Economics at Exeter University said: “It’s outrageous that this system has persisted for so long, paying the most to the biggest landowners, irrespective of the public benefit.

“It’s been wonderful for the rich, but not for the average and poor farmers.”

Greenpeace said it was “simply indefensible that taxpayers’ money is being used to bankroll huge subsidies going to billionaires largely on the basis of how much land they own.”

The EU payouts will be replaced with the Government’s post-Brexit “public money for public goods” system, which could see cuts in subsidies paid to landowners.

Mr Dyson’s family now owns more land in Britain than the Queen.

Their farms, including a state-of-the-art strawberry production facility, cover more than 35,000 acres in Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset.

The farm owned by the Dyson family

Farm land is exempt from inheritance tax but the inventor, who also owns homes in Gloucestershire, London, France and Singapore, last week denied he acquired his land so his children will not have to pay it.

He said: “If this is a tax dodge, there must be cheaper and easier ways of achieving that particular aim.”

His spokesman said Dyson’s farming operations employed more than 160 people and had invested £112m in new technology and equipment.

He said the strawberry project had not received any farming subsidies.

He added Mr Dyson welcomed reform of payouts to focus on public benefit.

He said: “The Dyson family, and James Dyson in particular, are passionate about farming. They want to make a difference.”

He said Dyson believes in the need for innovation and a revival in British agriculture following Brexit, and an increased focus on food security.

Dyson’s firms say his contribution to the EU and UK through import duties alone “dwarfs” any subsidy received for farming. They totalled £13.1m in 2019.