"2019 promises to be a make or break year for our area. As we look to a positive future outside the European Union, the Tees Valley won’t just be competing with Newcastle, Leeds or Birmingham. Our success depends on our ability to work, trade and collaborate with old friends and new allies around the world.

Taking back control of our airport – Teesside International Airport – presents a once in a generation opportunity for our area to find its voice again. To be truly global, outward-looking, more confident and more visible on the international stage.

But as politicians in Westminster still decide what Brexit looks like, politicians locally need to decide whether we need an international airport at all.

That’s because on the 24 January, the leaders of the five Tees Valley councils will vote on my plan to bring our airport back into public ownership. The choice presented to them will be clear: either they back my plan to save our airport, or it will close after Peel Group’s keep-open commitment expires in 2021.

While public ownership guarantees the airport’s long-term future, nobody is suggesting I’m better at running an airport than Peel – because I’m not. I’m a commercial solicitor by trade, and before being elected I ran by own sportswear business.

I don’t know the first thing about running an airport terminal – but I know a team who do.

In a few days’ time, I’ll be announcing the name of the new well-established, UK airport operator who will work with me to turn Teesside International into the success we know it can be. They have the experience, the track record, and the relationships with major airlines to bring our airport back into the black.

They see what we have always seen, and they see everything working in our favour: a growing economy, a huge catchment area, a high concentration of global businesses, a passenger demand for European flights, and businesses looking to invest in commercial property on the 819 acres of land we will acquire.

But don’t just take my word for it. Over the past 12 months, we have been working on a full and comprehensive turnaround plan with our new operator. This is a highly detailed piece of work that I’ll be publishing for all to see before the crunch vote on January 24.

Unlike the deal in 2003, when our local authorities sold off our airport with zero safeguards in place, I want every single person as humanly possible to see why taking back control of our airport adds up, and why it is the right and proper thing to do.

As I have said throughout this entire process, I don’t want to give the council leaders and the public any excuses to reject this plan to save our airport from closure.

Once we announce our new operator, we can also publish the full business case, full turnaround plan, and full valuation report for all to see – including all the necessary legal, risk and due diligence work. I will be completely open, honest and transparent throughout.

Thank you for putting your faith in me this far. In 2019, I won’t let you down."