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Heathrow vs Gatwick: the role of the EU

By Matt Reuben

Monday 9 May 2016 Student Journalists

The decision on the UK’s position in the European Union and the location chosen for airport expansion are two rather major events in the political calendar. The referendum is in June and the airport decision will be the following month, but should the two have been fixed the other way around?

It’s not the first time that this has been pointed out. In January, the Financial Times reported that the decision on airport expansion would be postponed until after the EU referendum blaming it as well as the London mayoral elections as key decisions that need to be decided before the airport expansion debate is touched upon.

Heathrow airport – which was recommended for expansion with the construction of a third runway by the Howard Davis Report last year – has backed support for the “In” vote; the decision to remain in the reformed EU. If the Government agrees with the Commission’s report, it predicts to decrease airfares by £20.

Gatwick airport chief executive Stewart Windgate wrote in The Times in February setting forth its view on EU membership saying, “I’ve seen the benefits of our international links built over decades: in twenty or thirty years’ time I don’t want to be the one explaining to the next generation that we chose disengagement over engagement, isolation over connection. So Gatwick supports staying in the EU and I myself will be voting to stay in.”

However, with the referendum result seven weeks away, the factor of decreasing airfares could become invalid if we choose to leave as the suggested £20 saved could be added to the ticket price for passengers clearing through European customs.

Outgoing London Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP, backs a second runway constructed at Gatwick in South London. He said on the BBC in July last year that the current recommendation will have huge implications, including “considerable environmental damage, it would cause hundreds of more flights over London and a huge increase in noise pollution in a city which already experiences a third of aircraft noise pollution in the whole of Europe”.

Mr Johnson has also noted on several occasions that Gatwick is the only deliverable option.

The South London airport also highlighted in their original bid that it will cost the taxpayer nothing.

When Ulster University students were asked about airport expansion, a majority of them backed the third runway at Heathrow.

Since the Department of Transport first addressed the need for an increase in airport capacity back in 2000, there has been a lot of toing and froing particularly when the Government switched from Labour to a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010. The Labour government backed a third runway in 2009 after the Conservatives in opposition came out against it the previous year.

In March this year, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said in the Telegraph that she predicted the Cabinet would conclude that the South West airport should not expand.



Journalist Matt

Yello! My name is Matt, I'm 19 and I'm in my first year studying journalism with marketing at Ulster University in Northern Ireland. Before that, I attained a BTEC Level 3 in multi-platform journalism with social media. Most of my work has been published on my blog. I wouldn't say I've had much work published apart from that, except for a piece that ended up in my church young people's magazine which has over 500 print subscribers. I am interested in politics and the environment but I’ll write about anything. I also have a passion for investigative journalism. I aspire to be a journalist in one of these areas, particularly in the broadcast side, so this opportunity will get my foot in the door.