|21 February, 2019

London's Heathrow Airport could see trade boost in no-deal Brexit

Planes will keep moving even in a no-deal scenario - CEO

British Airways airplanes at Heathrow Airport.

British Airways airplanes at Heathrow Airport.

REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON - London Heathrow Airport could be boosted by extra trade if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal and Britain's seaports and roads get clogged up with extra congestion, the airport's chief executive said on Thursday.

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow, Europe's biggest airport, said he was not hoping for a "no-deal" Brexit outcome but that the airport would be resilient to disruption if there was one.

"In the short-term, if there are queues at Dover, then there may be more cargo going on short-haul planes from European markets," he told Reuters, adding that they had spent several million pounds preparing for no-deal.

"We don't want to have a no-deal Brexit, and we don't see a commercial advantage in a no-deal Brexit, but we are prepared for no deal."

Holland-Kaye said the airport had begun stockpiling some items, such as mechanical components and rubber gloves, that come from the EU in case of disruption around Brexit.

He said that the airport had been working on the assumption of a no-deal Brexit for the past 4-5 months.

Britain is seeking legally binding changes to the Irish border backstop in its Withdrawal Agreement from the EU. Reservations about the backstop were a key reason why Prime Minister Theresa May's deal was defeated in parliament in January.

If Britain fails to approve a deal or agree an extension to talks with the EU, then it will leave without a deal on March 29.

Planes will keep moving even in a no-deal scenario, Holland-Kaye said, adding that the EU had shown flexibility on issues such as caps for air traffic in recent weeks.

"We've seen more pragmatism coming in from the EU side over the last month or so, as they've started to understand that these kind of constraints are not in the interests of their carriers," he said.

Heathrow Airport, owned by Ferrovial, Qatar Investment Authority and China Investment Corporation among others, on Thursday said a record 80.1 million customers had flown through the airport, with 3 percent revenue growth.

Holland-Kaye said that plans for a new runway, due to open in 2026, were on track, after lawmakers voted to approve expansion last year.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Alison Williams) ((alistair.smout@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 542 7064; Reuters Messaging: alistair.smout.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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