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    A general view Heathrow Airport near London, Britain October 11, 2016.

    May's 'Dithering' on Airport Decision to Cost Britain Billions

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    UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been accused of "dithering" after putting off a parliamentary vote on British airport capacity for another year. Responding to the news, Britain’s biggest business lobby group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), told Sputnik that the government’s indecision could cost the UK more than $36bn by 2030.

    "Dither and delay"was the charge brought by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, against Mrs. May's government. On Wednesday, it was revealed it will be up to 18 months before Parliament confirms where a much-needed new UK airport runway is to be built.

    The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which represents nearly 190,000 UK businesses, had even stronger words for Mrs. May. Its President, Paul Drechsler, told Sputnik of his dismay.

    "Let's be clear — in the aftermath of Brexit, the world won't wait for us. Other countries don't care about our excuses. The competition is hungry and more than willing to take advantage of our weakness."

    Airplanes stand idle at London's Gatwick Airport, England
    © AP Photo / Sang Tan
    Airplanes stand idle at London's Gatwick Airport, England

    "While we're staring at the departures board, airports in France, Germany and the Netherlands are all building routes with emerging markets. If the UK doesn't act now, we could lose out on over $36 billion in trade by 2030 with the BRICS economies alone. Meanwhile, our loss would be our European rivals' gain," Drechsler told Sputnik. 

    "Of the $36 billion of trade with BRICS we'd miss out on by 2030, $18 billion would go to Germany, and $9 billion would go to France."

    Such staunch criticism from a prominent business leader dents the Prime Minister's attempts to reassure international investors in the wake of the Brexit referendum, that the UK is "open for business".

    The key issue at stake is that the UK's export potential is being restricted by not having a larger airport capacity.

    This quandary is set to be more problematic in the next few years. A recent report by influential financial forecaster EY Item Club, said that if the UK loses access to the EU single market, as part of Brexit negotiations, exporting to emerging markets will be an important "silver lining" for the UK economy.

    "In this scenario, offsetting the cost of losing unfettered access to the European single market will depend crucially on accessing cheaper world markets in food and manufactures. This will provide some compensation while the UK negotiates with the EU over the longer term," The EY Item Club report said.

    The matter has dogged UK governments for decades. Senior ministers have reportedly warned the Prime Minister that there is so much opposition to expanding Heathrow, the project would be bogged down in legal and environmental challenges for years.

    Indeed, up to 60 Conservative MPs are against expansion at Heathrow, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, whose Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat is close to the west London airport. Mr. Johnson last month said that Heathrow expansion is a "fantasy" and should be "consigned to the dustbin."

    Passengers queue outside Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport in London
    © AP Photo / Sang Tan
    Passengers queue outside Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport in London

    However, airlines and business groups favor expansion of Heathrow, which offers far more direct international connections and handles much more freight than Gatwick Airport.

    In July 2015, the Airports Commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies backed a new third runway at Heathrow, something Heathrow management have lobbied the Conservative government for years over.

    CBI President, Paul Drechsler, said that getting started on the commission's recommendation is a vital domestic priority.

    "Building a new runway in the South East is a key decision for the long-term future of our economy and country."

    "It's more important than ever to reassure Britain's workers, makers, exporters and investors that the UK is open for business. The Airports Commission recommended Heathrow — the Government must make this its starting point."


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