The UK government is "taking seriously" aviation industry concerns about Brexit, transport secretary Chris Grayling has declared.
Speaking at an Aviation Club luncheon yesterday, Grayling said the sector "is very high on the government's radar" in negotiations with Brussels.
He also affirmed that ministers remained "very committed" to a third runway at London Heathrow and would begin the legislative process to start the project "early" next year.
The UK's new 30-year aviation strategy – to be published "soon", Grayling promises – will include proposals to "modernise our airspace" by reforming an air traffic management system that would otherwise bring a "massive increase in delays" by 2030, he says.
On the UK's exit from the EU, Grayling states the government's aim to "provide the best possible access to European aviation markets", and that, although ministers are unable to make any detailed pronouncements while negotiations are taking place, aviation is a top priority.
He told the audience of aviation professionals: "I don't want you to think we are not taking this seriously because we are."
A day earlier, Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary warned a European parliamentary committee that flights between the UK and the remaining EU nations could cease for "weeks or months" if it exited the bloc in March 2019 without an agreement on replacing the current open-skies deal.
Referring to the third-runway proposal, Grayling says that despite the absence of a mention of Heathrow in the government's legislative programme – laid out in the 21 June Queen's Speech – ministers are "very committed to bringing this project forward", noting: "I am very proud to be the secretary of state to start the ball rolling on a third runway."
He adds that there "is widespread support [for a third runway] across parliament", and that the new capacity will "make a real difference" to regional connections within the UK and improve the country's trade links post-Brexit.