AS an island trading nation, the UK relies heavily on aviation for its connections to the rest of the globe.
This has resulted in the UK having the third largest aviation network in the world, after the US and China. It also boasts the second largest aerospace manufacturing industry. All told, the aviation sector, including airports, has a turnover of over £60bn, contributes over £52bn to GDP and employs nearly 1m people.
This world-beating industry has largely kept a low profile in the run up to Brexit negotiations although it is a foundation upon which a future trade deal will be built. However, in common with other key sectors, it is being buffeted by uncertainty while the UK waits to commence Brexit talks in earnest.
Last week, the Airport Operators Association (AOA), released a general election manifesto of its own in a bid to keep aviation flying high. Its intention was to set out how a new government can build on the success of the sector and help it deliver on the opportunities offered by Brexit. How? By providing the vital overseas connectivity that a truly global Britain will require.
This will rest partly on a new legal framework for the UK’s aviation connectivity. A number of the UK's current airspace access agreements have been bilaterally agreed between the EU and third countries. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal covering aviation access, the ability of UK airlines to fly to, between and within EU countries and the US could hit legal turbulence.
The Confederation of British Industry says that it is imperative – both for the transportation of persons and of goods – that this is avoided, through interim or transitional arrangements if necessary.
The AOA says it has enjoyed the support of the Department for Transport since the referendum but warns that time is of the essence for talks on aviation access because airlines set their timetables many months in advance.
It would be a mistake for incoming ministers leave such informal talks idling on the runway too long. They must provide certainty as early as possible on future UK-EU aviation relations to both keep aviation thriving, and to secure the excellent air connectivity that will help make Brexit a success.