The boss of Heathrow Airport has made what will be seen as an appeal to Brexiteers for support for a third runway, despite the prime minister’s opposition.
Speaking exclusively to The Independent, Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, warned of the consequences of cancelling expansion at Britain’s busiest airport.
Paris Charles de Gaulle is set to eclipse Heathrow Airport as Europe’s leading aviation hub within 18 months, The Independent has calculated.
Mr Holland-Kaye said: “We are being overtaken by the French. That its the reality of the situation.
“Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris has more connections to long-haul markets than Heathrow has, and twice as many connections to UK cities than Heathrow has.
“Charles de Gaulle is becoming the hub for the UK.”
“As we chart our path outside the European Union as global Britain, how can we possibly rely on the French to provide our trading links.
“Heathrow handles 40 per cent of all the UK’s exports.
“If we don’t expand, we will be flying through Paris to get to global markets, relying for the future of the economy on the French and the will of the French government – our rivals now, not our partners in the EU.
“No prime minister could possibly allow this to happen. No Heathrow expansion, no global Britain.”
The prime minister is a long-standing opponent of the planned third runway. Boris Johnson’s Uxbridge constituency is close to Heathrow and would be seriously impacted by an increase of flights by around 50 per cent.
Five years ago, the Davies Commission unanimously recommended a third runway northwest of the existing two at Heathrow.
The plan was backed by government and parliament. But the project has lost momentum, with the planned opening date of 2026 having been missed.
If the project goes ahead, the new northwestern runway may not open until the very end of the 2020s.
Mr Holland-Kaye was speaking on the morning that Heathrow’s results for 2019 were published.
The airport handled a record 80.9 million passengers, up 1 per cent on the previous year. Revenue rose 3.4 per cent to £3.1 billion, and earnings rose 4.6 per cent to £1.9 billion.
On Thursday, the High Court in London is expected to rule on a series of legal challenges to expansion at Heathrow, brought by environmental groups.