Is Britain being left on the runway?

Guest blog post from Callum Munro, a member of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee, the party’s governing body.

It was in May that Barack Obama stood before the British Parliament and argued that Britain should not simply succumb to the popular idea that our role as a political and economic world leader is to be forever lost to likes of China, India and Brazil. The President was right. Britain’s role on the international stage is undoubtedly changing but it is a mistake to think this means the role must diminish.

Doing business with these emerging markets is crucial; both to secure Britain’s rightful place in the world and to help our domestic economy climb out from the current pit of flat lining growth. Connecting with these markets relies crucially upon an aviation network with the capacity to deliver. BAA’s high profile, £100k a year, ‘Heathrow Hub’ campaign unveils some startling statistics about Britain’s ability to connect with those emerging markets which are so crucial for growth.

France and Germany both make nearly twice as many flights to China’s major airports as the UK. Europe has access to 21 more cities in emerging markets than Heathrow. With Heathrow at capacity and the plan for third runway and sixth terminal scrapped by the coalition government, the flat lining British economy is losing out on £1.2bn a year due to the lack an adequate aviation policy and the failure to utilise Heathrow’s potential as a hub airport.

‘Boris Island’ offers an interesting solution to Britain’s aviation crisis. A four runway airport in the Thames estuary would indeed breathe new life into the industry but a lack of political will would suggest it is unlikely to materialise any time soon.

Beijing Daxing International airport will be open by 2017. With nine runways and a capacity for up to 200m passengers a year, it will undoubtedly dwarf anything that has come before it. For Britain to reach its potential, it doesn’t need to build a Daxing equivalent. However, the UK Government must recognise that unless we can adequately connect with the likes of Daxing, then we will only continue to fall behind the likes of France and Germany. Be it a new airport or more runways; investment in Britain’s aviation industry is vital for achieving both short and long term growth. It will be interesting to see whether the government will get on board in 2012 and helps Britain’s economy take off.

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