11 JULY 2016


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Article from BTNews 11 JULY 2016

COMMENT: Darren Caplan, chief executive, Airport Operators Association

Don’t let Brexit delay UK aviation growth

1. Responding to Brexit

The past couple of weeks have seen extraordinary developments in UK politics, following the EU referendum. The result means that the UK is set to leave the EU, potentially by 2019, if Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is triggered by the new prime minister by the end of 2016, and negotiations are concluded within the two -year framework provided for in the treaty.

In response to the vote on 23 June, since the referendum the Airport Operators Association’s board has convened, we have met DfT officials, and we will shortly be writing to the Cabinet Office setting out some early thoughts on what our members would like to see included in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. 

We will be visiting Brussels this week for political and officer meetings to seek an understanding of the issues as seen from an EU and a European airports’ perspective. 

And in the coming months we will be working with our airport members – and other aviation representatives – to input our views into the government’s negotiation process, to seek to ensure there is a post-Brexit settlement which works positively for both the UK and EU aviation markets.

While we are clearly in uncertain times currently, the AOA’s approach to the coming months and years in relation to the UK-EU negotiations will be to identify both the challenges that will need to be overcome and the opportunities we as a sector should be looking to take advantage of while the Brexit negotiations are ongoing. 

Central to our "asks", we will seek to ensure the government negotiates for a vision of UK aviation which recognises it is vital our country continues to benefit from open access to important international markets, and maintains and enhances those aspects of the single European market and open-skies agreements which have been beneficial to our sector, allowing the industry to grow, delivering cheaper air fares and opening up new destinations at home and abroad.

We should remember that the UK has the third-biggest aviation sector in the world and the largest in the EU, and that it is not just in the UK’s interests to get this right but EU nations' too. 

EU countries will still want UK passengers and freight to continue flying to their countries, their peoples will still want to holiday, trade and visit friends and family in the UK, and their exporters will still want to export here. 

So the AOA will be positive in its forthcoming UK-EU activity; we will keep our members informed along the way; and we will seek to develop a collaborative approach with other aviation players, to lobby for a post-Brexit negotiated deal that benefits both UK and EU aviation. To fail to secure this will simply harm both. 

2. Don’t delay UK aviation growth

One major immediate concern is that Brexit should not encourage the government and the new prime minister to put on hold matters relating to UK aviation which are not related to Brexit. 

The AOA was deeply disappointed that a year on from the Airport Commission’s final report, the government announced a further delay to its response until at least October when it was due to announce its response last week. 

This, despite the government’s commitment to decide by the end of 2015, which was then delayed until this summer. This additional delay comes at a time when clear action is needed to demonstrate the UK is open for business and confident about its future at this time of increased uncertainty.

So we continue to urge the government to make a decision on airport capacity as soon as possible. We also urge the government to update its Aviation Policy Framework as soon as possible too. 

This framework was set in 2013, yet the DfT’s own passenger forecasts from then show that London and South East airports will be full by 2030 and airports outside the South East will be filling up from 2040. 

Given these predictions, have now been out-paced by reality – the latest CAA 2015 figures show UK passenger numbers 17m higher than the highest scenario forecasts for 2015 made in 2013 (at almost 252m nationally); it is clear the Aviation Policy Framework is already behind the curve. 

As well as delivering the additional capacity the UK needs to enable world-class links to both existing and emerging markets, the government really does need to show some urgency on wider UK airports policy. It needs to set out how we can make better use of existing airport capacity around the UK, for example by prioritising the much-needed modernisation of the UK’s airspace infrastructure and by enhancing surface access links to all our airports.

3. A message to the government

So the AOA’s message to the government, when it reconvenes under new management in September, is clear. UK airports will take a positive approach in responding to the challenges and identifying opportunities which, post-EU referendum, will benefit both our sector and ultimately UK plc’s air connectivity. 

But don’t let Brexit delay UK aviation growth, which this government can help to deliver both today and in the months and years ahead, regardless of what happens in those negotiations in Brussels.

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

David Starkie, United Kingdom

The comments on the Aviation Policy Framework forecasts underlines yet again why we should take forecasts with a big pinch of salt; often they are little better than guesses. This should be borne in mind when various interest groups are pushing their wares.

David Bentley, Manchester/UK

(Section 1) A statement of the bleedin' obvious. (Section 2) 'Brexit' has implied effects on all aspects of aviation. The problem is that Davies unbelievably failed to take it into account in his report and it should have been rejected for that reason. I suspect the government - especially if it is led by Andrea Leadsom, will call for another forecast - which means anothe r report.