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Brexit would strengthen case for Heathrow expansion, says airport boss
[LONDON] A British exit from the EU would strengthen the case for expanding Heathrow, the UK's busiest airport, because the country would need more global trading routes, the airport's chief executive said on Thursday.
Heathrow's position is that Britain would be better off in a reformed European Union, CEO John Holland-Kaye said, but should the country vote to leave, it would be more dependent on a bigger Heathrow with more emerging market links.
"An exit (from the EU) would create a bigger need for what Heathrow would offer, which is direct flights to long haul markets," he said in an interview. "It would be bizarre if we were to exit the EU but then find ourselves reliant on flying through Paris to get to the growing markets."
Heathrow, Britain's biggest port through which a quarter of the country's exports move, is operating at close to full capacity, and struggles to add routes to new markets in countries like China.
Paris has 62 direct flights to China each week, while London has 34, according to pro-trade group Let Britain Fly, and up to 20 times more trade takes place with countries with which Britain has a direct link.
Heathrow has been campaigning for 25 years to be given the green light to build a third runway, but political wrangling due to objections from local residents and environmentalists continues to delay any expansion.
In December, the government delayed a decision on whether to build a new runway at Heathrow, west of London, or the country's second busiest airport at Gatwick, south of London, saying it needed more information on the environmental impact of expansion.
Transport minister Patrick McLoughlin said in February that a decision could come before the end of July, five weeks after Britain votes on whether to stay in the EU or not on June 23. "Once the referendum's out of the way, we need the Prime Minister to make a decision this summer and then we can make it happen," Mr Holland-Kaye said.