Grant Shapps slaps down BBC host over Brexit staffing probe amid Europe-wide airport chaos

Grant Shapps says aviation chaos 'not a Brexit issue'

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Grant Shapps told the BBC presenter that chaos at airports amid a shortage of staff was “not a Brexit issue.” Ryanair boss Micheal O’Leary has attempted to link problems recruiting airport staff to Brexit but Mr Shapps was quick to slap down any attempt to blame travel disruptions on Britain being outside the European Union. 

Mr Shapps told BBC’s Sunday Morning: “I just explained that we already that you see the same problems across Europe. So there’s clearly if it were only to do with Brexit, then there wouldn’t be a problem in Schiphol, elsewhere.

“So that clearly can’t be true.

“But secondly, if O’Leary or anybody else’s solution is all we need to do is employ cheap labour from somewhere else look, I didn’t vote for Brexit but the country did and we’ve made our choice.

“We want a high wage, high skill economy, that means the aviation sector like all other sectors as the HGV, the lorry driver sector has now done.”

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Ms Raworth pressed: “Brexit has not made it easier has it?”

“You’re ignoring the fact that airports across Europe have also had the same queues so if it was just a Brexit issue, then that wouldn’t be the case,” replied the Transport Secretary. 

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

“That’s the sort of economy we want to run in this country, that’s what the country’s voted for and that’s what we’re delivering.”

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Mr Shapps said he does not anticipate calling in the Army to help with issues at airports.

Asked on BBC’s Sunday Morning programme about working conditions in aviation and a link between current issues and the pandemic disruption, he said: “I have every sympathy with the idea that during coronavirus where, frankly, we didn’t have a manual or a textbook about how to deal with it, and I think looking back we could see that we might approach things differently.”

He said the pandemic was a “difficult situation” and “we were doing our best”, and it “did mean a considerable amount of disruption”.

He compared it with the Government’s response and 33 measures taken to tackle HGV driver issues, “including with the generation logistics campaign, which launches this month, well I think aviation is going to require the same thing, generation aviation, to attract people to the sector and make sure that people are properly paid”.

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Asked if the Army will be brought in if things do not improve over the next few weeks, Mr Shapps said: “The Army is not a snap solution to every problem.

Secondly, they are being deployed in increasing numbers to eastern Europe, to the Baltics, in what is a war situation and that’s what the Army are principally there for.

“The airports and airlines will need to sort out this problem.

“The Government will give them every support, but I don’t anticipate that will include calling in the Army.”

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