Heathrow: a missed opportunity to let the world know that post Brexit-Britain is open for business

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Today’s announcement that any decision on airport expansion will be left to the new Prime Minister is a blow, says EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation.

Tomorrow (1st July) marks one year on since the independent Airports Commission unanimously came down in favour of expanding Heathrow airport and new research shows that support from British manufacturers for Heathrow expansion remains strong. A commitment from Government now would have been a positive message to the world that post-Brexit Britain is open for business and would demonstrate support for British business in these uncertain times.

EEF’s new research shows:

  • Three quarters (78%) of manufacturers with a business need for air freight access say that expansion of Heathrow would best support their company’s export ambitions
  • 53% of all manufacturers think that additional capacity at Heathrow would deliver the best economic benefits to the wider UK – compared to 13% saying the same of Gatwick
  • Manufacturers also rate Heathrow more highly than Gatwick for its ability to attract airlines offering the best business connectivity to both traditional and emerging markets.

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

“One year on from the Airports Commission’s recommendation on expanding Heathrow and this crucial decision is still stuck in the departure lounge and will be for the foreseeable future. It is a missed opportunity to let the world know that post-Brexit Britain is open for business, and for the Government to demonstrate commitment to growth in these uncertain times.

“Heathrow expansion would not just help exporters and those seeking access to new markets but, would be a key linchpin in securing Britain’s post-Brexit future as a trading nation. It would also bring a range of valuable supply chain opportunities that would boost jobs and growth across the UK. Similar to the Airports Commission, British manufacturers are unequivocal - Heathrow is the best option and it is time to get this nationally important infrastructure project off the ground.”  

Trade data for the 12 months to April 2016 shows the importance of Heathrow in securing a good balance of trade with emerging markets, now even more important following the result of the EU referendum. Of the UK’s non-EU exports by value, 38% went via Heathrow. Heathrow also channels 31% of ‘BRIC’ exports, 23% of ‘Next 11’ and 23% of ‘CIVETS’ exports.

EEF’s research shows that support for Heathrow, however, isn’t just limited to manufacturers needing air freight access. Over half of all manufacturers (53%) believe that additional capacity at Heathrow would deliver the best economic benefits to the wider UK – compared to 13% saying the same of Gatwick.

These benefits, as identified by the Airports Commission, include increased intermediate trade due to a reduction in country to country trade costs, a boost to GDP due to increased international competitiveness and ultimately productivity, as well as a boost to the freight industry on which manufacturers looking to export heavily rely.

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