Brexit backer James Dyson loses libel lawsuit against UK newspaper

By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) -James Dyson, the billionaire inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, lost a libel lawsuit on Friday against a British newspaper publisher over a column that branded him a hypocrite who had “screwed” Britain.

Dyson sued Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), publisher of the Daily Mirror, at London’s High Court over articles lambasting him for moving his company’s global head office from Britain to Singapore after championing the economic benefits of Brexit – Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Judge Robert Jay dismissed Dyson’s lawsuit in a written ruling.

Dyson, 76, said in a witness statement last month that the 2022 column in the Daily Mirror was “not only wrong but incredibly harmful” to his reputation.

He said that, as someone who had invested heavily in Britain and its young people, he found the criticism “particularly damaging and distressing”.

The High Court ruled that MGN had successfully argued its defence of honest opinion and that Dyson had not proved he had suffered “serious harm” as a result of the column.

“The claimant having failed on the issue of ‘serious harm’ and the defendant having succeeded on its honest opinion defence, this claim must be dismissed,” the judge said.

He did not accept Dyson’s view that the head office move amounted to little more than the relocation of two senior executives, as the company had asserted at the time.

“It would, I think, be a mistake to believe that just because something is put out in a press release it must be true,” he said.

An MGN spokesperson said: “We welcome today’s judgment which upholds the rights of our columnists to share honestly held opinions, even about powerful or wealthy individuals.”

Dyson said it was “a highly successful global technology company which employs 3,700 people in the UK, (and) paid more UK corporation tax after 2019 than before”.

The company continues to invest “vast sums” in the UK, files patents there, and in 2017 founded a university that had educated hundreds of undergraduates “who pay no tuition fees while earning a salary and even paying tax,” a Dyson spokesperson said.

(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle, Editing by Timothy Heritage)