The Prime Minister will shortly be jetting off to India, with hopes of laying the groundwork for a future trade deal once we leave the EU. With the recent go-ahead given for a third runway at Heathrow, I‘m sure that at the front of her mind is how critical connectivity is to international trade as well as how this can benefit our regional economy.
We trade up to 20 times more with those countries with which we have a direct air link and, by value, 40 per cent of all UK exports go via air. Indeed, using the same measure, 26 per cent of our exports go via Heathrow, which makes it our busiest port.
It’s critical that for the UK to flourish outside of the EU that further prevarication isn’t allowed to happen.
After 40 years of discussion, this is the time to act. And the public agree. A recent poll by YouGov showed that 81% of people think the new runway is important to increasing our trade and exports with emerging markets. With 94% of people recognising how important it is for London to keep up with other global cities such as Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.
Amongst a few loud voices of dissent, there is quite wide-spread and cross party political support for the project because it’s not just about a new runway for London, but it’s about a scheme that is in the national interest – building a technical skills capability for the country, boosting connectivity to the regions and internationally, and playing a part in any future industrial strategy.
It’s positive reach will be felt many miles from the capital. For example the West Midlands is forecast to receive an economic boost of £9.7bn from a third runway, and Yorkshire & Humber will see £9bn. In total, the UK will see an estimated £60bn in economic benefits by 2050.
International trade is vital to the UK’s economic growth, with towns and cities across the country currently benefitting from nine times more employment from foreign investment in manufacturing than those in London and the South East.
As a result of foreign investment and trade, regional employment could benefit by up to 180,000 new jobs across the UK by 2050. The additional long haul connections and increased freight capacity at an expanded Heathrow will bring more business to the UK. We need to seize this opportunity and make it a great success.
Mark Reynolds is Chief Executive of Mace and sits on the Leaders’ Group of Let Britain Fly
Listen to the latest Reaction podcast: Exports and the future of trade post-Brexit with Emily Redding & Deputy Editor, Rachel Cunliffe.