Mark Menzies is MP for Fylde, and the Prime Minister’s trade envoy for Colombia, Chile and Peru.
Few things make a trade envoy prouder than hearing about new business deals for British companies. It is these international connections that will create world beating companies here in the UK.
Which is why, when Parliament votes this summer on the policy for expanding Heathrow, we must show that we’re ready for growth. Some weeks ago I spent time with Chilean business leaders in Santiago buzzing about the brand new contracts they’d signed with UK firms. How did this happen? It happened precisely because they can now fly directly to Heathrow Airport four days a week. Until very recently. there were no direct flights at all from there to Santiago.
A great deal of time, expense and complexity has been removed. Planes from Santiago no longer need to transit through Spain, or France, or other countries, to get to the UK. These business leaders told me that their ability to come here and do deals without going round the houses made all the difference. If that’s what they’re saying in Chile, it’ll be true of markets in every part of the globe. And alongside the business owners who’d already signed contracts, there are plenty more queuing up for introductions, pursuing contracts with British suppliers. This is the advantage GB plc is looking for as we plan our future out of the European Union.
I can tell you from a trade envoy’s perspective that this kind of direct access to markets around the world is critical for our economy, for our businesses to thrive. The same story is true in Colombia and Peru. The appetite is there to connect with Britain and its business leaders, small, medium and large. One important fact worth nothing for the airlines is this: the passengers I’m writing about here are often sitting in business or first class.
It’s also worth pointing out that few things matter to me as a constituency MP as much as ensuring our businesses in the Fylde Coast are connected. My constituency has the highest value of exports in all of Britain. That’s thanks to some incredibly exciting defence and energy contracts. A third runway at Heathrow will help local businesses go even further, generating more than 15,000 jobs in the North West and boosting the regional economy by a massive £16 billion. The same is true of every region in the UK.
The value is real to my constituents – people who work hard to succeed for themselves and their families. Local businesses thrive because of our ability to compete on the world stage. And it’s Heathrow Airport that connects these businesses and all of us to the rest of the world. There’s probably never been a more important time for that connection not just to be preserved, but to be reinforced and strengthened.
Britain and its people cannot be isolated, cut off from the rest. If anything, we need closer ties and more travel to countries around the globe. It’s not just trade that we need. We value the cultural experiences and exchanges we have. Families are more and more scattered to the corners of the world and keeping in touch needs more than just Skype.
That’s why Theresa May was right to give the green light to expanding Heathrow Airport with a third runway. Now it’s important to get on and hold the National Policy Statement vote in the Commons so work can get started. There’s tremendous support across all parties in for Heathrow. MPs like myself want the £187 billion of trade that’s estimated to come from the opening of a third runway. It will mean real jobs – up to 180,000 of them – and growth in the UK economy that few infrastructure decisions can match in terms of impact.
The Prime Minister and her ministers are rightly making sure that voices are heard. So is Heathrow, with a widespread and serious consultation process underway. But as a trade envoy, I want more decision makers around the world to know that Britain is open for business. And that means a go ahead for a third runway at Heathrow as soon as possible.