As the UK's only international cargo hub, Heathrow Airport needs to be capable of handling increased capacity as Britain looks to reassert its trading position after Brexit, according to the Freight Transport Association (FTA), the only organisation which speaks for the whole of the logistics sector.
"British exporters and importers rely on the global network of passenger flights at Heathrow which carry British goods in their holds, to provide access to markets outside Europe," says FTA's Deputy Chief Executive, James Hookham.
"If Britain is to diversify its economy away from European trade after Brexit, business will need increased capacity at the country's main cargo hub - Heathrow - and the timing of today's (5 June 2018) announcement will strengthen the nation's attractiveness to potential trading partners. MPs now need to ensure that the decision can be ratified in the next 21 days for the good of British business.
"Currently, air freight represents around 40% by value of the UK's imports and exports and its importance can only increase as the UK looks to replace European trading opportunities with economies further afield after Brexit."
Heathrow is the lynchpin to all air freight movements in the UK, with freight being distributed from its terminals to other airports across the country and then on to end-user destinations. The Davies Commission report and the government's own assessment identified the importance of Heathrow as a key driver for trade, as well as its provision of benefits for passengers.
"Heathrow's connectivity makes it the perfect solution for British businesses looking to trade with other parts of the world: the country's regional airports do not have the capacity to service foreign capitals with long distance aircraft, and so London is the ideal hub around which business can revolve. Efficient air cargo links will be essential to the UK in a post-Brexit world, enabling British businesses to continue to compete on price and speed of delivery and an expanded Heathrow will facilitate what industry needs to succeed in the future."
Demand for air freight globally grew 9% in 2017, according to industry body IATA, as exporters in other countries made use of their links to overseas markets. And as Mr Hookham continues, Britain needs to keep pace if the nation is to retain its competitive edge:
"Heathrow is already a key hub for businesses outside the UK, with quantities of freight coming across the English Channel to take long-haul routes to the Far East and beyond, and that supply chain must be protected to maintain the UK's growing economy after Brexit. Early morning long-haul arrivals, which transport high value freight in the belly holds of passenger flights, enable time-critical cargo to be available to British business at the start of the working day and don't just support the City and the UK's trading relationships, but also provide a boost to the economy at a local level.
"Heathrow is a key employer in West London, not just at the airport itself but for other seemingly unrelated businesses, including retailers, couriers, taxis and accommodation providers. The airport's continued connectivity and efficiency is key to the ongoing success of the London, and UK, economies, and it is crucial that the airport can continue to attract business from overseas as the country looks to thrive in a post-Brexit world."
Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc. A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.