BRITAIN must secure a Brexit deal which allows for the free movement of entrepreneurs into Britain, according to representatives from the region’s fastest growing companies.
The winners of the Ward Hadaway Yorkshire Fastest 50 2017 also called on policymakers to reduce the skills deficit and make it easier for their staff to commute to work.
The comments were made during a round-table event, which was held at law firm Ward Hadaway’s Leeds office, to celebrate the three firms that picked up trophies at this year’s Yorkshire Fastest 50 awards.
The awards, which have been running in Yorkshire since 2011, celebrate and honour the region’s fastest growing firms to stimulate debate and economic growth.
The debate featured Craig Such the managing director of Sheffield-based Azzure IT, which was the fastest growing small business, Glen Harding, the CEO of Pudsey-based headoffice3, which triumphed in the fastest growing medium-sized business category and Howard Grindrod, the deputy managing director of Leeds-based Hisense UK, which was the fastest growing large business.
Hisense was also the overall fastest growing business in the region.
The discussion, which was chaired by Greg Wright, The Yorkshire Post deputy business editor, also featured Phil Jordan, a partner in the commercial team at Ward Hadaway, and Harmajinder Hayre, executive partner for the Leeds office at Ward Hadaway.
The wide-ranging debate examined Brexit, devolution and prospects for the region’s economy. It was broadcast live on Facebook.
Mr Grindrod said he wanted the UK to be seen as the blueprint for running a good market-driven economy after Brexit.
He added: “We need good trade deals. We also need to encourage the free movement of people who are money-generators.
“There’s unforeseen consequences on immigration… the unforeseen consequence is actually stopping the movement of people to run their own businesses. To get my Chinese colleagues into the UK is far more difficult than to get them into Germany or France or any other European country.
“It’s easier for me to meet my Chinese colleagues in Germany than it is to meet them in Leeds. I would like to see a much more open way of doing business, rather than closing ourselves off.”
Mr Such said he wanted to see “very strong” trade agreements with the European Union and other nations after Brexit.
He added: “Brexit will probably enable us to build stronger relationships and deals with other countries outside of Europe. I’d like to think that we will still be able to have free movement of goods throughout Europe as well.
“That’s the bit I think is going to be more challenging.
“I believe that because the UK has been the first to exit from Europe, Brussels will be quite stubborn in their negotiations.”
Mr Harding said he hoped that the UK could still have access to skilled labour from Europe that was “desperately needed” after we leave the EU.
He added: “While I didn’t support it at the time, I would like to see some of the promises made by the Leave campaign that the money that was going into Europe, is going to be invested again, into our own economy.”
Mr Hayre said that some substitution needed to be found for EU funding after Brexit. Currently the EU provides funding that supports SME (small-and-medium sized enterprises) and economic growth in Yorkshire.
He added: “There needs to be some guarantee for SMEs that the Government will replace that funding.”
BOSSES at Yorkshire’s fastest growing companies are frustrated by the gridlock and public transport delays that cause misery for commuters.
They hoped that any planned devolution deals would reduce congestion and increase the skills catchment base for their firm.
Howard Grindrod, the deputy managing director at Leeds-based Hisense UK said: “We can get people up from London in two and a half hours from King’s Cross. To get someone over from Manchester can take just as long, and it’s a much messier journey.”
Glen Harding, the CEO of Pudsey-based headoffice3, added: “It is frustrating that I can get to our London office a lot quicker than I can get to a site in Liverpool.
“It does need to be addressed and I do think that having a metro mayor, which is a key requirement of devolution, is essential to make this happen; whether that is for the whole of the Yorkshire region or not remains to be seen.
“It will be interesting to see how it plays out in regions like Manchester. It needs to happen in terms of transport, housing, infrastructure and skills, but I think it’s a bit of a mistake to start throwing in management of the NHS and blue light services when we talk about devolution.”
Craig Such, the managing director of Sheffield-based Azzure IT, said: “Our catchment area should really cover the whole of Yorkshire. One of the key barriers is transport links. My journey into Leeds can take between 30 minutes and one hour and 30 minutes. That is what our potential employees face as well. “
He said a devolution deal covering the whole of Yorkshire might lead to a joined-up approach for transport policy.
Harmajinder Hayre of Ward Hadaway said that there might be lessons to be learned from the US, where mayors had worked to improve connections between big cities.
He added: “It’s all about inter-connectivity and individuals being able to come into places like Boston and New York and Chicago from hundreds of miles away; time efficiently and cost efficiently.”
The winners of this year’s Fastest 50 awards reflect the strength in depth of the region’s economy.
Hisense UK is the British arm of Chinese multinational Hisense Company, one of the world’s largest electronics and consumer goods manufacturers. Azzure IT is rated by Microsoft as the leading Microsoft Gold partner in the UK. Headoffice3 is a fit-out and construction specialist which provides services to schools, commercial and residential sectors.