Louise Gulliver said the IoD was continuing to speak out about the benefits of migration to the UK’s economy, as Britain prepares to start negotiations to leave the European Union. She also stressed that Britain needs to develop a skilled workforce at home.
Speaking after a meeting with business and academic leaders at Leeds Civic Hall, Ms Gulliver told The Yorkshire Post: “Post Brexit our cities need to be more competitive than ever, on the basis that we will be competing with our European neighbours.
“Historically, the issues that have concerned our members are around tax and regulation. For the first time in a long while, skills, post-Brexit, has topped that poll because of the concerns about immigration.
“But it’s not just as binary as (being) about migration and skills, but it is about long term education, and ensuring we are building those skills at home, as well.”
Ms Gulliver believes Britain must avoid the temptation to become too inward-looking as it prepares for Brexit.
“We’ve seen it with the NHS this week, and ‘British jobs for British doctors’,’’ she said. “It’s a very dangerous path that we weave.
“The IoD has spoken out strongly on the issue of migration for many years and the fact that it is absolutely intrinsically important for our economic growth that we must be able to take skills from wherever we can get them. But equally, we do need to think about the skills we need for tomorrow. We need to work harder at developing them at home. It becomes a very slippery slope if we become too insular in all of this,” Ms Gulliver added. “We talk at the IoD about diversity in the boardroom and in every sense of the word. It isn’t just about gender issues, it’s about diversity of thought.
“If we believe that we’ve got it all here in our great nation, then we run a risk of not really championing that diversity of skill, of thought, of culture and everything else.”
Ms Gulliver said the IOD was very happy to see that London was starting to feel the North breathing down its neck.
She added: “The mark of success for this Government will be when traders and financial analysts near the Bank of England start looking over their shoulders at Leeds.”
Ms Gulliver said rail connections between Leeds and Manchester were not good enough, and delays on the M62 have been a long-standing bugbear for IoD members. Ms Gulliver said she had been amazed to see a photo of a chicken crossing the motorway near Cleckheaton in West Yorkshire because traffic had come to a standstill.
She was in Leeds to speak at a private “Public Square” leaders’ lunch, which was organised by the IoD in Yorkshire. Guests included Roger Marsh, chairman of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.
Business is all about connections, according to Louise Gulliver, the IoD’s acting director general,
She said IoD chairmen had argued that connections are needed between companies in associated industries. These include sectors like life sciences, nuclear, renewables, e-commerce, artificial intelligence, digital healthcare and financial and professional services.
Ms Gulliver said: “It’s long been known that similar business which form clusters all benefit as a result – the question for both Government and business organisations is how they can facilitate this across an area as large and diverse as the North of England.”