Restrictions on freedom of movement a high level concern - Steve Gatfield of Elmwood

Restrictions on freedom of movement are a high level concern for businesses and the UK must not handicap itself with an onerous immigration system, according to the chairman of a leading design agency.

Steve Gatfield, chairman of Leeds-based Elmwood

Steve Gatfield, chairman of Leeds-based Elmwood, believes the UK has been at an advantage due to a combination of a relatively simple visa system, the prevalence of the English language worldwide and an environment where talent can develop.

“In my view it’s an enormous national strategic advantage and one that we would be absolutely nuts to forgo,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

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The talent pool in the UK is “extremely good”, says Mr Gatfield. He added that the reason for this is due to the education system, which Mr Gatfield feels is second only to the US. The chairman of Elmwood said: “Growing up in the UK you just take this for granted but the UK is an extraordinarily rich and well endowed melting pot of talented people. It is also supported by some wonderful places of learning. That basic infrastructure of excellence isn’t available to you everywhere you go in the world.

“It’s the same reason why the UK’s higher education sector, if you look at it on any scoring system, is streets ahead of pretty much anywhere other than the US.”

Mr Gatfield doesn’t think a soft Brexit is going to affect Elmwood a “huge amount” but a hard Brexit would mean “all bets are off”.

He added: “Ultimately, the creative industries are of a particularly high standard in the UK. The UK is highly regarded for the quality of its design work. It’s highly regarded for the quality of its media content.

“Brexit notwithstanding the position of the UK as a leadership centre, in significant part because of the calibre of the talent and the institutions that support the talent, means that we are less likely to be affected by things that Brexit will disrupt.

“That’s not to be complacent about it but we are fortunate that at least as a creative industry location we are very highly regarded on a worldwide basis let alone a European basis.”