OXFORDSHIRE'S economy remains strong and is growing one year on from the vote for Britain to leave the European Union, according to one of the county's top business leaders.

Nigel Tipple, chief executive of Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) said despite concerns over Brexit and a surprise general election result, Oxfordshire’s economy remained resilient.

The business leader said despite the Conservatives failing to secure an overall majority in the General Election, coupled with the start of Brexit negotiations, the county’s economic outlook remained a positive one.

Citing a continued growth in new jobs for Oxfordshire – as well as many new businesses being launched – Mr Tipple said the county’s economy remains one of the 'most agile' in the UK.

But after Brexit negotiations got under way he urged the Government to provide clarity on freedom of movement across borders for people, goods and services.

Mr Tipple said: "In Oxfordshire we have continued to grow our economy dynamically, with the creation of 45,000 new jobs over the past five years.

"This represents more than 50 per cent of our 2031 target of 85,600 new jobs and, perhaps more importantly, provides our businesses with the capacity to rise to the challenge of a post-Brexit economy.

"In addition to this we have also seen the number of VAT-registered businesses in the county go up by 8.5 per cent between 2014 and 2016."

Earlier this week it emerged that Business Secretary Greg Clark has travelled to BMW’s headquarters in Munich twice in the past six months to make the case for the Cowley plant to build the new electric Mini.

Mr Clark has been lobbying for future investment for the current home of the Mini, as Brexit negotiations started earlier this week.

A decision is still yet to be made on where the Mini E will be manufactured, but BMW bosses have previously hinted production could be moved to a plant in the Netherlands if a favourable Brexit deal was not struck and the company faced tariffs on vehicles made in the UK that are sold abroad.

Mr Tipple said it was 'uncertainty' that made businesses nervous and he was pleased that Brexit negotiations were now under way.

He said firms like BMW Mini wanted clarity from the Government on freedom of movement for people and goods and services across borders.

"The challenges are the same for employers at Harwell, Culham and Milton Park – they want to know if they can move their global workforce around," he added.

The lack of clarity at this stage of the Brexit negotiations on freedom of movement of people between the UK and the rest of the EU has also caused concern in the NHS, even though Prime Minister Theresa May has conceded this is likely continue after the two-year negotiation concludes in 2019.

Mr Tipple admitted it was a 'challenging time' for recruitment at Oxfordshire's hospitals and earlier this year the Liberal Democrats claimed more than 750 European people working in the National Health Service in Oxfordshire could leave their jobs because of Brexit.

They said this would create a bill of more than £4.7m to hire replacement doctors and nurses following a 'damaging exodus'.

The figures were based on research by Channel 4 programme Dispatches, which found 42 per cent of NHS staff were considering leaving in the next five years due to Brexit.

The Lib Dems called for the Government to guarantee European Union nationals could stay in Britain after it quits the EU.

There are also concerns over freedom of movement for workers in the farming community.

West Oxfordshire farmer Patrick Hook is a director of PD Hook in Bampton – one of the UK’s largest independent meat chicken hatchery businesses.

He warned that the possibility of freedom of movement being reduced could harm his entire industry.

He said: "It poses a serious threat to our access to skilled labour.

“Foreign skilled labour is a core element of the UK agricultural workforce, from farm and factory workers to scientists, and without them we would not be able to operate."

Mr Tipple indicated there were positive signs that some businesses were not waiting for Brexit negotiations to be completed.

He said: "Some companies are not waiting for Brexit, they are getting on with the job and taking advantage of the weakening of Sterling to trade across global markets including China and Latin America."

Despite the continued growth in new jobs Mr Tipple acknowledged many companies would feel nervous, unsure just how Brexit negotiations will develop over the coming months.

He added: "Undoubtedly, the primary concern for all businesses – whether small, national or international – is what type of Brexit is likely to be struck, but it appears likely a softer one than many perhaps thought.

"In her manifesto Theresa May committed to creating ‘a strong economy built on sound public finances, low taxes, better regulation and free trade deals with markets around the world'.

"Clearly it would appear the Prime Minister has an appetite for a global future, encouraging trade with countries from outside of the EU and aiming to create conditions for this to happen.

"That said – as is the case with any incoming government – the proof is in the pudding and like all Oxfordshire-based organisations, OxLEP will continue to follow developments closely."

Richard Venables of Kidlington-based commercial property consultants VSL, was at Venturefest Oxford on Wednesday, where entrepreneurs and start-up companies pitched for funding.

He said: "I am very excited about the whole innovation economy in Oxfordshire.

"We have a growing housing economy and Westgate and other initiatives are bringing a huge amount of funding into the region.

"We have a lot of businesses that are emerging in the city centre and unicorns (firms valued at more than $1billion).

"We will see fledgling companies growing from 30 to 50 employees into bigger companies.

"A South Korean company took premises recently in Park End Street in Oxford, they are involved in tech and glazing."

Mr Tipple said that there were many continued opportunities for Oxfordshire businesses.

Another key role of OxLEP is to secure central government funding for Oxfordshire via growth funds – it has obtained more than £200m for the Oxfordshire economy since its inception in 2011.

OxLEP is one of 38 local enterprise partnerships in England and aims to link up businesses, local authorities and academics from across the county.