It came as no surprise to me that a recent report from Leeds Law Society and Leeds City Council showed that the city’s legal sector has grown faster than in any other UK city over the past decade.
While there is a perception that financial and related professional services are focused mainly around London, or ‘the City’, this completely misses the fact that the majority of people who work in this industry are based outside the M25. In fact, of the more than 2.2 million people working in the industry, over two-thirds of them work outside London – with 139,000 based in Yorkshire and the Humber.
Leeds is the UK’s fifth largest financial centre, and as well as its burgeoning legal sector, it also has one of the largest centres for banking in the country.
The city of Leeds accounts for around one quarter of the industry’s employment in the region, with Sheffield and Bradford accounting for a further 20 per cent. The industry represents around 6 per cent of the region’s employment, and contributed more than eight percent, or £9.2bn, to the region’s total economic output. These figures are significant and their continued strength will not only be important for the continued prosperity of the region, but also of the wider UK..
Given the important contribution financial and related professional services makes to this region and to Britain as a whole, it is vital that we adapt and it is essential that we get the best possible outcome from the EU negotiations.
We have been consistent and clear about what our industry needs from this process.
Early agreement on bridging and adaptation periods to ensure continuity of service to customers here in the UK and across the EU. These will also give business time to adapt to the new relationship.
As the Chancellor recently noted, failure to agree a transition period will be damaging for people, jobs and the broader economy. We also want continued mutual access to talent. One of the UK’s competitive advantages as the leading international financial centre is our ability to attract the best and brightest from across the world. This must continue to ensure our success, and we also need to ensure a strong pipeline of talent is being developed here in the UK. Indeed, Leeds is one of the UK’s biggest beneficiaries of the so-called ‘brain gain’.
Overall, we want a bespoke deal with the EU with mutual market access and based on mutual recognition and regulatory cooperation. In effect, this allows European and international firms to operate in the UK without any extra regulatory burdens within the UK and vice versa.
Brexit will bring its own challenges and opportunities, but there are others that our industry must also remain focused on responding to if it is to remain a major driver of the economy.
Later this week at our Annual Conference, we will set out our vision for the industry beyond Brexit to 2025.
It is ambitious but, with the right support, achievable. We hope to see our industry continue to thrive across the Yorkshire and Humber and the wider UK.
- The City UK is a membership body championing British financial and related professional services.