The Freight Transport Association (FTA), the largest and most influential business organisation in the logistics sector, has urged Members of Parliament vote in favour of plans to expand Heathrow Airport, for the sake of the continued success of British business.

“Brexit will provide great opportunities for British business to forge new trading relationships outside the EU,” says James Hookham, FTA’s Deputy Chief Executive. “But without an expanding global hub airport, with increased capacity for business, the prospects for trading partnerships to be established by importers and exporters with the new world markets we will need to work with are pretty bleak.

“MPs – whether they advocate leaving the EU or not – need to recognise the importance of being able to fly British goods around the world, from a central hub airport,” he continues. “Without the increased flexibility and access that an expanded Heathrow will provide, it will be difficult to diversify our economy away from EU trade and maximise the opportunities which Brexit offers. Our increasing reliance on the on-line, e-commerce ‘I Want It Now’ trading environment is based on efficient air cargo links with the rest of the world – UK suppliers will otherwise not be able to compete effectively with competitors in Asia, North and South America, and beyond.

“The promise of trade deals is not enough – exporters will need the means of reaching these new markets as quickly and reliably as possible if they are to compete on equal terms with local producers. Trucking goods to Paris, Frankfurt or other European airports with the necessary connectivity would be a further handicap to seamless business arrangements, if the expansion of Heathrow is not carried out. Flying direct from the UK has to be the best solution for British business and industry.”

“The logistics industry’s message to MPs is simple – you need to equip the country with the means of trading efficiently in a post-Brexit world. Failure to expand Heathrow will diminish the prospects for Britain’s future trading ambitions. A successful future outside the EU will require self-sufficiency in routes to market – and an expanded Heathrow is the logical decision to give importers and exporters the reassurance they need that Britain is open for business.”

Demand for global air freight grew by 9% in 2017 according to airline industry body IATA, as exporters in other countries established new trading links to overseas markets. And as Hookham stresses, Heathrow must move with the market and expand its options, or risk losing the patronage of major world airlines whose passenger flights provide the cargo-carrying capacity to hundreds of destinations fulfilling vital and profitable trading opportunities for British businesses:

“The airport’s new capacity is expected to be operational by the mid-2020s, by which time the new UK trade deals should be coming on-line. At the same time, the next generation of aircraft will be in service by that date, which will be quieter and cleaner, reducing still further the environmental impact of the airport. Further delays and frustrations for the project would send the wrong signals to Britain’s global trading partners about our seriousness to become an independent global trade partner. MPs need to acknowledge this bigger picture, and the importance of a viable global hub airport to the nation’s future economic success.

“With less than a year until Brexit, agreement on an expanded Heathrow will provide British industry with a reassurance that it will be able to keep trading efficiently with its partners outside the EU. Failure to provide additional capacity at Heathrow will mean bleak prospects for British businesses seeking new global markets”.

Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.  A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.