Tim Newark: End Unfair Air Passenger Tax Under Brexit

  • Date: 15/01/20
  • Tim Newark, Daily Express

If the Prime Minister wants to deliver on his pledge to improve transport connections between UK regions, he must waive this tax and encourage competitiveness.

boris flybe plane

Air Passenger Duty (APD) has always been an unwelcome tax on hard-working people flying abroad on holiday, but now it is set to cost 2,300 UK jobs at Flybe. If the Prime Minister wants to deliver on his pledge to improve transport connections between UK regions, he must waive this tax and encourage competitiveness.

UK air carrier Flybe stands on the brink of collapse thanks to the massive burden of a tax that is not imposed on either rail or coach passengers. Some £106million of tax is due this year unless the Government steps in to defer it over a longer three-year period. That’s an unfair fiscal hit on air passengers and air companies.

Last year, Flybe accounted for 38 per cent of all UK domestic flights and eight ­million passengers. Owned by a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital Partners, it’s a major player in Boris Johnson’s commitment to improving infrastructure within the UK.

It’s route from London to Cornwall is so important it is already part subsidised by the Government. Other routes may be commercially unviable but are necessary nevertheless.

Fast travel between major ­cities in the UK is vital for encouraging business.

Of course, no private company should be immune from going bankrupt and the Government’s reluctance to intervene is understandable as it could encourage other failing ­businesses to seek rescue with taxpayers’ money.

Yet this is not a case of a bad business model but over-burdensome tax harming the ability of a company to survive.

It’s the same affliction harming the high street when out-of-date business rates are the last straw for many traders.

Tax needs to be tailored to provide a level playing field and APD is distorting the market.

Air passengers pay £26 per person in APD for a domestic return journey – and higher rates for longer flights abroad. It’s levied each time an aircraft takes off from a UK airport so hits domestic carriers especially hard.

That’s a lot of money coming out of the air industry and it’s not just the air companies that are suffering.

More than 25 UK regional airports serve Flybe, employing thousands of people in ancillary services and their competitiveness with other European airports is also damaged by this unnecessary tax.

If Boris does intervene, he is right to cut the tax across the entire air industry to help all passenger carriers.

It is no surprise that environmental activists are up in arms over this, with Greenpeace saying it would be a “shocking decision” as flying is high in carbon emissions.

They want to see more taxes on flights so that only the rich can afford to go abroad on holiday.

Not only is that wrong, attacking the poorest in society, but it is also a massive hurdle for business.

It would be wonderful if we could all cycle to work or catch a train for a meeting.

But sometimes business people need to attend meetings quickly and efficiently, not ­dawdling along on a journey that takes a day rather than an hour to get there.

Brexit Britain must decide whether it is open for global business or not, preferring to pull up the drawbridge in pursuit of a carbon neutrality that shackles enterprise and loses jobs.

It is simply a question of striking the right balance between protecting the environment but also enabling us to work hard and create a prosperous society for all.

Constant catastrophising about climate change adds very little to what should be a ­measured debate.

Honouring the working people who backed Boris in the general election means improving our transport network across the UK.

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