Ministers have identified aviation as a “top priority” in Brexit negotiations, saying today that the government was seeking new flight rights with 44 countries to replace the EU framework governing where airlines can fly.
It comes as the Department for Transport (DfT) seeks input on how to fast track improvements to UK airports in a bid to safeguard the air transport and aerospace industries that add £22bn to the UK economy each year.
Plans revealed for the new aviation strategy which were tapped into in today's discussion paper, say the government is focused on the 44 countries including EU member states, the US and Canada, where market access is via EU-negotiated agreements.
The aviation industry has been vocal in its concerns over Brexit and the uncertainty faced over where airlines will be able to fly without the current arrangements in place.
“A clear priority for me is to achieve the best possible deal for our access to European markets,” said transport secretary Chris Grayling. “This is a key part of the government’s Brexit negotiations and will be separate from the aviation strategy.”
“In the short term, post-referendum, the government is focused on the 44 countries including EU member states, the US and Canada, where our market access is via EU-negotiated agreements,” the DfT said.
Alternative arrangements will be required for air services to or from these countries when the UK leaves the EU. New arrangements are a top priority for the government.
The government said its aviation strategy will consider the need for further growth beyond expansion at Heathrow, and noted that “a number of airports have plans to invest further” to cater for passenger growth.
“We are aware that a number of airports have plans to invest further, allowing them to accommodate passenger growth over the next decade using their existing runways, which may need to be accompanied by applications to increase existing caps," it said.
“The government agrees with the Airports Commission’s recommendation that there is a requirement for more intensive use of existing airport capacity and is minded to be supportive of all airports who wish to make best use of their existing runways including those in the South East,” the DfT added.
Airports with planning restrictions hoping to take forward plans to develop beyond those restrictions will need to submit a planning application, with environmental issues such as noise and air quality taken into account.
“Due to the recent rise in growth, the government believes that this issue cannot wait until the publication of a new aviation strategy," the DfT said. "Therefore, as part of the call for evidence, it would welcome views with regards to this proposed policy.”
The government also wants feedback on initiatives to make the airport process speedier for passengers, including airport bag check-ins in town centres, and a “luggage portering” service where bags are collected from passengers before they reach the airport.
The final aviation strategy will be published by the end of 2018 after themed consultations on topics flagged in its discussion paper.