THE head of one of the UK's largest industry groups told Thames Valley business leaders a clear policy on immigration is the most important step in leaving the European Union.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) addressed the region's business leaders yesterday.

"The Thames Valley is renowned for its strong and international facing economy," she said.

"The diversity of firms, from pharma to tech, adds hugely to its character, and the University provides a wonderful ecosystem for these businesses, whether cutting edge bio-tech or software companies planning to use the Science Park.

"From speaking with businesses across all industry sectors, it’s clear that many see opportunities from Brexit, but are also clear about their concerns.

"Knowing what a future immigration system will look like is critical for many across the Thames Valley, affecting everything from company secondments to forecasting.

"It’s also vital for businesses that the UK-EU negotiations get off to a good start, with some early wins on EU citizens’ rights, discussing a free trade agreement in tandem with the divorce and establishing a transition period up front."

She was invited to the University of Reading addressing a crowd alongside Vice Chancellor David Bell.

He said: "We are delighted to welcome Carolyn Fairbairn to the University of Reading at such a critical moment for the economy, both in the Thames Valley and in the UK more generally.

"We will all benefit enormously from hearing her insights as one of our most prominent business leaders.

"Universities play a crucial role in driving innovation, generating growth and creating jobs.

"The University of Reading values its relationships with businesses in the Thames Valley. Together, we can ensure that our region remains one of the most prosperous in the country."