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Delaying Heathrow decision a blow to post-Brexit business


3 min read Partner content

Support for Heathrow expansion has been “unanimous and unambiguous” say industry leaders and MPs, who roundly deride today’s announcement to delay this vital decision.

Industry experts are enraged that any decision over airport expansion will be now be left to the next Prime Minister, as this will only exacerbate the uncertainty already clouding the UK economy.

In the aftermath of Thursday’s vote, when business is crying out for clarity, Heathrow Airport led a chorus of voices including manufacturing group EEF, Unite the union, and senior Tory MP Crispin Blunt have all criticised today’s announcement as a missed opportunity to show post-Brexit Britain is still open for business.

“At a time when business needs confidence it is extremely frustrating that internal party politics prevents a key infrastructure decision from being taken,” said CEO of EEF, Terry Scuoler.

The delay is acutely unnecessary, Scuoler points out, given that support for a third runway at Heathrow could hardly be stronger.

Tomorrow marks one year since the Airports Commission unanimously favoured Heathrow expansion - the result of a 30-month, £20m study. 78% of manufacturers who rely on air freight access agree, as do 53% of all other manufacturers - compared to just 13% for Gatwick.

“It is a missed opportunity to let the world know that post-Brexit Britain is open for business, Scuoler added, “and for the Government to demonstrate commitment to growth in these uncertain times.”

The chief executive of Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye, elaborated on this position:

“If Britain wants to be confident, outward-looking and at the centre of the world’s economy then expanding Heathrow must be a key building block in the Government’s Brexit plan,” he said.

The UK’s largest airport also stated that in uncertain economic times the £16bn privately funded infrastructure investment would create up to 180,000 jobs and £211bn of growth across the UK.

It is perhaps no wonder that recent polling by ComRes shows that two thirds of MPs think greenlighting Heathrow expansion will strengthen Britain’s economy, and that MPs also ranked Heathrow expansion as the top infrastructure project for spreading growth across the country.

“It will allow British exporters to trade with all the growing markets of the world, strengthening Britain’s position as one of the great trading nations,” Holland-Kaye added.

“Government can send the strongest possible signal that Britain is open for business and confident in its future by expanding Heathrow.”

These views were given further clout by Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, Chairman of the Gatwick Coordination Group of MPs, who said that “no purpose is being served” by today’s decision.

“This is a wholly unnecessary further delay and creates uncertainty,” said Blunt.

He added that the procrastination is also “causing dismay” to the Department for Transport and Gatwick residents who have “quite enough to put up with a failing rail service,” further demonstrating why a decision for Gatwick is “practically impossible.”

“It’s perfectly clear Heathrow is the only option,” Blunt said. “No purpose is being served by not now saying so.”

Earlier in the day, former Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Lillian Greenwood came out in support of Heathrow expansion as the only credible choice. Greenwood previously opposed expansion and her announcement is seen as evidence of the way in which Heathrow’s expansion plans have improved since they were ruled out in 2010.

Hours after the announcement of further delay, Boris Johnson ruled himself out of the Tory leadership race. As the only candidate implacably opposed to Heathrow expansion, this has been seen as a good omen for Heathrow expansion to finally be given the green light in the coming months.

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