Transport secretary Chris Grayling has warned the aviation industry "it'll be some time yet" before the government can deliver the certainty it craves regarding Brexit.
Speaking today at the Aviation Club Lunch in London, Grayling said:
Now, I know that the aviation industry wants certainty, and quickly. So does the government. So does the rest of the EU. It’ll be some time yet before we can deliver that certainty. The formal negotiations have only just begun.
The aviation industry has been vocal over its Brexit concerns and what will happen next for the open skies agreements, with airline bosses telling European Parliament's transport and tourism committee yesterday that an aviation deal between the European Union and Britain needs to be signed soon.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, a vocal critic of Brexit, warned that unless one is inked soon, Ryanair could start shifting flights to the continent ahead of Brexit.
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said he was confident a deal would be struck between Britain and the EU, but urged both sides involved to reach an agreement similar to the open skies set-up.
And the transport secretary today reiterated the government's aims to reach a positive deal for the industry, saying that one of its priorities "is to secure the best possible access to European aviation markets".
Grayling said the government was also working hard to deliver the quick replacement of the EU-based third country agreements, with countries like the US and Canada.
"It’s in the interests of all countries, and all who travel between them, that we seek open, liberal arrangements for aviation," he added.
Heathrow expansion gets strong backing
The transport secretary also strongly reaffirmed the government's backing of Heathrow's third runway.
There has been speculation over Heathrow expansion in recent weeks, since the development was not mentioned in the Queen's speech, but Grayling said today there was a simple explanation for that.
"There’s a basic reason why the third runway wasn’t included. Not because it’s been dropped. Not because Parliament doesn’t support it. But simply because getting it built doesn’t require any new primary legislation," he said. "Our commitment to the third runway is as strong as ever."
The government is currently reviewing the many responses to the consultation on the draft airports national policy statement. Grayling said once the final version of that has been published, Heathrow will follow the set legal process for obtaining planning permission.
"It would all too be easy to sit and watch our big airports slide down the international rankings as flights and investment head elsewhere," Grayling said. "Yet what starts as a slow trickle can quickly become a haemorrhage. We haven’t reached that stage yet. But to ensure we never do we must progress with our programme to expand Heathrow - and so provide room for the industry to grow for decades to come."