UK may use navy to bring home stranded citizens
Britain said on Sunday it was considering using the Royal Navy and requisitioning merchant ships to ferry home citizens stranded abroad by the closure of much of European airspace because of volcanic ash.
The response to the crisis is threatening to become a domestic political issue ahead of a general election on May 6 and with the ruling Labour Party trailing in opinion polls, Reuters reported.
Business minister Peter Mandelson said the government was also investigating the possibility of using Spanish airports not covered by the air traffic ban as a hub for citizens stuck further south or in north America.
"We need to look at every single logistical option for getting our people back home," Mandelson said after an emergency meeting of ministers and officials chaired by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
"That's what we are going to do, either from outside Europe back onto the continent (of Europe), over the Channel, either from Spanish or French ports. We have got to look at commercial as well as Royal Navy amphibious capacity to help us in this task."
Brown later discussed the options with Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. "Prime Minister Zapatero said that he would help in any way he can," a spokeswoman for Brown said.
Ministers will meet Brown at another contingency meeting at 0730 GMT on Monday to decide whether to put the plans into action.
Ash from an Icelandic volcano has closed much of northern European airspace since Wednesday because of its potential danger to airliners.
Many British families had been trying to get home from foreign holidays in time for the return to school on Monday after the Easter break.