Brexit Is Not To Blame For Airport Chaos, Grant Shapps Says

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Passengers queue to check-in for a Qatar Airways flight in Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. (Photo: Steve Parsons via PA Wire/PA Images)
Passengers queue to check-in for a Qatar Airways flight in Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. (Photo: Steve Parsons via PA Wire/PA Images)

Passengers queue to check-in for a Qatar Airways flight in Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. (Photo: Steve Parsons via PA Wire/PA Images)

Brexit is not to blame for the problems which have led to travel chaos at airports across the UK, according to Grant Shapps.

Thousands of holidaymakers have been affected by flight cancellations, long queues and baggage problems brought on by a lack of staff.

Aviation industry bosses have called on the government to introduce an emergency visa to allow workers from the European Union to enter the UK to help alleviate the issues.

Jet2 boss Steve Heapy told Shapps at an emergency meeting last week that tighter immigration controls following Brexit were partly to blame for the chaos.

And Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has also said the UK’s exit from the EU has led to a shortage of staff from eastern Europe.

But appearing on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, Shapps said that airports across Europe were experiencing similar problems.

“If it was just the Brexit issue, then that wouldn’t be the case,” he said.

The transport secretary said airlines job cuts during the pandemic had been “too deep” despite the government’s furlough scheme, and it was now up to the industry to improve wages to attract more staff.

He said: “If anybody’s solution is all we need to do is employ cheap labour from somewhere else – I didn’t vote for Brexit, but the country did and we made our choice.

“We want a high-wage high-skill economy. That means the aviation sector like all other sectors - as the HGV lorry driver sector has now done – must train people domestically.

“Airports across Europe have also had the same queues, so if it was just a Brexit issue, then that wouldn’t be the case.

“As with lorry drivers, we found the solutions were actually in making sure decent salaries were paid, that people was trained here in this country, that people were attracted to a job not just by better salaries but also better conditions as well.”

But London mayor Sadiq Khan said Brexit was compounding the problems caused by Covid-19.

He said: “The Government should recognise there are shortages in the occupation, of those who work in aviation.

“That means opening up these jobs to those from the European Union who were doing these jobs before.

“Because what we don’t want is a spring misery turned into a summer misery. Many families who have saved, who have paid for a holiday and are looking forward to a holiday are going to be let down.”

He added: “What you can do very easily is make sure those who were in those jobs before, who have gone back to their country of origin, from the EU, are encouraged to come back.

“This is self-inflicted from the Government. Listen, it isn’t about Covid, this is about Brexit plus Covid.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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