30 JANUARY 2017
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In the week the Supreme Court ruled MPs must oversee the UK’s departure from Europe, Brexit and aviation’s place in it were unsurprisingly the hot topics at the Airlines UK annual dinner. Keynote speaker Chris Grayling, the transportation secretary, delivered a sturdy call to arms for the future, setting out plans for what he called the “biggest programme of UK airspace modernisation in half a century”.
Not to be outdone, AUK chairman Jane Middleton put up a strong case listing the industry’s many achievements, its importance to the country and why it deserves to be heard in the debate. For once we heard no ifs and buts but a straightforward go-for-it mood especially refreshing after a hesitant few months.
Grayling, celebrating his first six months in a job he said he had always wanted, said his priority “right now” was to secure the right deal for airlines following negotiations with the EU. At the same time, he added, he would be working alongside the prime minister and the Cabinet “to provide as much clarity as possible as early as possible”.
Noting Theresa May’s comments on the intention to have an open trading relationship with the EU when we leave, he added: “We also want the best possible access to European aviation markets. We believe it is in the EU’s interests to seek a liberal arrangement for aviation so that airlines can offer connectivity and passengers have choice.” He was confident the UK would get what it needed, he said. “The fact remains that other countries want to do business with us.”
Grayling paid tribute to the strength of Britain’s aviation industry, hailed the decision to back a third runway for Heathrow and promised the new Aviation Strategy currently being drafted would build on the momentum of that “so the whole of Britain can benefit from new aviation capacity”.
He concluded: “So together we have a lot of work to do. Yes, we’re facing a time of adjustment and challenge. But we’re also facing a time of extraordinary potential for this industry. A chance for aviation to help make Brexit the success I know it will be, delivering the services and connections that will define our future outside the European Union.”
Middleton also reflected on the role of aviation in post-Brexit Britain, noting Theresa May’s talk of the UK’s new global approach and adding: “What struck me was how airlines are an embodiment of these characteristics, and therefore are an absolute vital component for any country looking for a more global future.”
As a feature of everyday life, she said, the “sheer value, and for me the wonder” of air travel was often lost. The fact people can fly across the world in a day, or to Europe for less than the cost of a short rail journey, raised few eyebrows these days. “It’s therefore useful to remember the role airlines play as a key enabler of GDP, connecting all regions of the UK to countries across the world, including many of the important economies that, post-Brexit, the UK will be seeking closer ties with,” she went on.
“Thousands of British businesses rely on airlines to trade. Each year, goods worth more than a £116bn are flown by air from the UK to non-EU countries. This is a massive 35% of the value of all UK trade outside the EU. It is the connectivity provided by airlines that allows foreign business travellers to reach destinations across the UK, bringing vital foreign investment.
“As an industry we are therefore uniquely placed to deliver the vision of a more outward-looking, global Britain.”
Full texts of the speeches are on the Airline UK website.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
John Burke, Sussex
This endorses my article, based on our maritime history. Go to getbritainout.org/history-proves-Britain-can-go-it-alone. The last four times we lost the Continental market, there was no air-freight.