LONDON — Looks like it will still be Little England for now.
A court’s decision Thursday that plans to build a third runway at Heathrow airport didn’t properly take into account the U.K.’s climate targets puts into jeopardy the country’s ambition to become a freewheeling, free-trading nation that transcends its immediate neighborhood.
The ruling, met predictably with dismay from industry and celebration among climate activists, leaves the government in a bind. U.K. policymakers have been some of the most ambitious in Europe on climate goals. But they face a treacherous post-Brexit economy for which a third runway at the Continent’s biggest airport was an insurance policy.
No one better encapsulates that dilemma than Boris Johnson. He was one of the most vocal critics of a third runway before becoming prime minister, when he served a constituency in West London battered by the noise and pollution of flights every 45 seconds.
Now he is entrusted with the responsibility of navigating an uncertain economic future for the U.K. beyond this year, and has been tacit about the project.
“The third runway was approved solely because of Brexit” — Industry official
Heathrow said Thursday it will appeal. But it won’t get the government’s backing, which said it will not challenge the court’s decision.
“Expanding Heathrow, Britain’s biggest port and only hub, is essential to achieving the prime minister’s vision of Global Britain. We will get it done the right way, without jeopardizing the planet’s future,” an airport spokesperson said Thursday.
“We take seriously our commitments on the environment,