The summer recess is coming to an end, as ever it has gone all too quickly. The return to Parliament will doubtless be lively as Brexit discussions, deal or no-deal, heads towards a conclusion. I wish the new Secretary of State, Dominic Raab all the best in his endeavours but before long reality needs to sink in that the EU Commission wants only one outcome – full Customs Union and adherence to Single Market rules with no say. It is fearful of the potential for success of a major global nation outside of its clutches. The Chequers deal is an abomination that doesn’t pass the ‘sniff test’ of Brexit, but still the EU wants more. The global option of leaving simply as friends and neighbours trading under World Trade Organisation terms looks ever more likely and increasingly appealing. We can come back to a Canada style zero tariff Free Trade Agreement later once anger and anguish has settled down.
The big local news is Manston with the acceptance for review by the Planning Inspectorate of the DCO application by RiverOak. I’ve had a few days away in Eastern Hungary and there is a similar parallel to be seen. The main regional city is Debrecen, certainly not a huge place of just 250,000 people, a quality University, an impressive Cathedral but beyond that fairly nondescript with the usual post-war tower-blocks typical of much of Eastern Europe. What it does have is an airport built by the Soviets during their time, with a long runway, almost within the city limits. Sounds familiar? A then small Hungarian airline – WizzAir started operations from the airport, many would have said it was a bold move. The airline now boasts 100 aircraft and is listed on the London Stock Exchange, carrying 25 million people per year. The Hungarian flag has been replaced with the British Union flag reflecting its London listing. The airport has grown rapidly with new logistics companies, amounting to hundreds of thousands of square footage of new warehousing within the site and Lufthansa now operating as well. The city put in a bid, against other Eastern European countries, to be the site for a new BMW factory of close to 1,000 acres with production capacity of 150,000 cars annually. Debrecen won the bid because, you guessed it, it had an airport.
We may well have a view as to the desirability of a cargo airport locally but the spin-offs in local investment, good jobs and passenger potential are obvious. We have to appreciate that in East Kent the attractiveness for big investors is always going to be limited because of location. Manston is our unique asset that many would dream of. Now is the time to seize the opportunity and welcome good fortune when it knocks at our door.