Sir Martin Sorrell: UK should copy Singapore's low taxes after Brexit

22 January 2019, 17:25 | Updated: 22 January 2019, 18:03

Britain should copy Singapore's model of light-touch regulation and low taxes after Brexit, according to one of Britain's best-known businessmen.

Sir Martin Sorrell, who founded the WPP advertising empire, opposed Brexit and is backing a second referendum.

However, he believes that, if Brexit does go ahead, then the UK should be at pains to separate itself from European regulation and attract the likes of Google, Microsoft and Apple.

Sir Martin, who resigned from WPP last year after claims of financial irregularity, has now set up a new company, called S4 Capital.

He remains, however, one of the world's most celebrated experts in the field of advertising and branding.

Sir Martin says that the UK's global reputation has come "under pressure" thanks to two years of protracted negotiations over Brexit.

He said: "On the assumption that we come out of the European Union we would therefore have to rebuild that brand, in my view.

"We would have to re-position the UK in the context of leaving the common market.

"In my view, you position it as a very strong kind of Singaporean-type model.

"Interestingly in the Brexit campaign that very rarely came up.

"But my view has always been that there is a distinct parallel with Singapore.

"When Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore's first prime minister) took Singapore out of the Malaysian Alliance, the combination with Malaysia, everybody said Singapore was doomed.

"It was not dissimilar to some of the things you hear around Brexit.

"And what he did is he took Singapore and he grabbed it by the scruff of the neck.

"Some people may disagree with some of the things that he did but basically he took Singapore to a level that people never anticipated and made it extremely successful on a much smaller scale - 5 million people as opposed to 60 million people in Britain.

"But the lessons are there."

Singapore's economy has flourished in recent decades with lower tax rates and fewer regulations on businesses.

It is a model that has been promoted previously by some Brexit supporters as an opportunity to encourage firms to move out of the European Union and relocated to Britain.

However, the idea of softening regulations has been consistently opposed by many within British business, including the chancellor Philip Hammond and the Bank of England governor Mark Carney.

Sir Martin's comments came on the day that another high-profile British businessman, Sir James Dyson, confirmed that he would be moving his company headquarters out of Britain, and instead locating them in Singapore.

Sir James' company, Dyson, said that decision was made because an increasing amount of its work revolved around Asian markets.

Sir Martin supports a second referendum, and admits his comments about Britain copying a Singaporean model will be "controversial".

But he says he is convinced that, post-Brexit, Britain would have to be bold.

He continued: "My view is that you will have to build a British brand and it's going to be a tax-light, low tax area and in my view it's going to be low-regulation as well.

"To my mind Britain will have to become more - not less - about attracting the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook, Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle, Apple and Microsoft.

"What you've got going on at the moment is European governments and Brussels looking at these tech giants with increasing intensity and thinking about regulation.

"So for us to lure them away may go against the grain but my view is the positioning of Britain post-Brexit has to be around making Britain a really open-for-business country.

"So light tax, and light regulation is really important."