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CN Briefing: Heathrow Airport; Gatwick; EU referendum; Brexit

The Times reports today that Whitehall officials are putting the PM under pressure to back a new runway “days after the EU referendum”.

Poor old Mr Cameron. As if he doesn’t have enough on his plate.

We were already expecting a decision in July. Now we hear Whitehall officials want a decision made as soon as possible after the vote on 23 June.

Which theoretically could mean a decision made as soon as LATE JUNE.

I wonder if the conversation with said Whitehall officials went a bit like this.

[Whitehall official]: “Now, David, you know what I’m going to say next, don’t you?

[PM sticks fingers in ears, mutters something about ’not having time to talk about this right now’]

[WO]: “The airport expansion decision really can’t wait, David. We need a decision. No ifs, no buts….”

[PM glares. Mutters something which sounds like ’bet you’d just loooove if Boris was the PM and not me’].

Though a vote to Remain would strengthen his hand (and weaken that of Heathrow’s nemesis and the man possibly after his job, Boris Johnson), the PM would still be leading a party with deep divisions from the recent months of EU referendum campaigning.

Would he really want to green light a project of such controversy, following victory?

Or would he rather look for a few quick wins elsewhere on the infrastructure front?

Developers will presumably be only too happy to talk about investment in offices, warehouses, even actual houses being built if the vote goes Cameron’s way.

Or perhaps Hinkley Point C? Does anyone really believe EDF Energy’s boss saying that Brexit isn’t a factor in the go-ahead for the new nuclear plant?

But The Times urges the government to back Gatwick, saying: “The moment for a ‘Boris Island’ airport may have passed, but the moment for the prime minister to tune out vested interests and make a commonsense decision in favour of Gatwick most certainly has not.”

Should Leave prevail later this month and a new PM be ushered in, the balance may tip dramatically towards Gatwick.

If, for example, Boris Johnson were PM, the Airports Commission report wouldn’t have his name attached (he was too busy dreaming up his own airport at the time) so could be overlooked.

But for the PM it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. 

As the referendum draws near, I wonder what odds the bookies are offering on yet another delay to the runway decision?

Other news 

More than half of UK contractors are expecting a growth in construction during 2016, according to research by Build UK, but concerns around labour and construction costs remain.

A Hochtief Murphy joint venture is among the winning contractors for a mining development in North Yorkshire.

Construction News had a big exclusive this morning on the CITB’s training levy and the government’s apprenticeship levy, with more than 900 contractors impacted. You can find out all the details here.


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