Leeds Bradford Airport is a major player in the economic fortunes of North and West Yorkshire, connecting us not only directly to the rest of Europe but also, both directly and indirectly, to much of the rest of the world.
I’ve been there several times since I was re-elected in 2014, and most recently I had the opportunity to discuss the imminent EU referendum with its management.
They are understandably nervous about an EU exit. Quite apart from the big increase in hassle that would accompany even casual travel to other European countries, smaller airports like LBA are particularly dependent on today’s European single market in aviation, with its thriving competition between airlines. This was created thanks to the EU, which merged previously fragmented national markets, each dominated by a single national carrier. This enhanced market now operates under a single fair set of rules rather than conflicting and competing national rules — and it’s made it possible for budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet to develop. And it’s a deal unlikely to be preserved for UK airlines if we quit the EU.
On top of all this, the airport has ambitious plans for development. Its managing director, Tony Hallwood, is confident that he can deliver a return on investment to boost economic and employment prospects for much of our region. But long-term investment plans require long-term stability and a buoyant economy. As with many local industries, both small and large, the last thing Leeds Bradford Airport needs right now is for Brexiteers to fling an enormous spanner into the works.