An agreement last week to remove limits on the number of cargo flights between the United Kingdom and China is an encouraging signal that post-Brexit policy makers are serious about exploring, or expanding, trade routes outside of the Euro zone.
Additional flights “will provide massive opportunities for our businesses, helping increase trade, create jobs and boost our economy up and down the country,” said the U.K.’s Transport Minister Chris Grayling, in a prepared statement. In addition to unlimited cargo flights, the number of permitted passenger flights under the agreement will be raised from 40 per week to 100 per week.
But with the U.K.’s exit from the European Union already prompting carriers to cut flights between Europe and the U.K., and with the potential for more reductions in the future, it is unclear to what extent the China’s increase will offset lower volumes of China-U.K. trade moving through EU hubs.
It also remains to be seen where the influx of passenger and cargo flights will land, since the government has yet to rule on the long-stalled Heathrow Airport runway expansion plans.
U.K. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling suggested that the vacillation over which airport to expand may be drawing to a close, albeit a protracted one. “I think, right now, given how long it’s taken this decision to happen in the first place, my focus would be on doing what we should do now,” he told the House of Commons Transport Committee. “Then either this government or a future government can look at what future strategy needs to be.”
The BBC reported that the Cabinet would discuss the issue today but that no final decision is expected.