EU unveils contingency plan to keep Channel Tunnel rail link open

Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel said last month it was taking steps to ensure that there would be a minimal impact from any no-deal Brexit.
Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel said last month it was taking steps to ensure that there would be a minimal impact from any no-deal Brexit.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS • The European Commission (EC) has announced plans to keep the rail link with Britain through the Channel Tunnel open on current terms for three months after a no-deal Brexit, in an effort to minimise disruption expected from any abrupt split.

The United Kingdom is on track to leave the European Union on March 29 without a deal unless Prime Minister Theresa May can convince the bloc to amend the divorce deal she agreed last year and get it approved by British lawmakers.

The proposal by the EU's executive arm would extend safety authorisations for the Channel Tunnel rail link, provided the UK also maintains identical safety standards. "This will ensure the protection of rail passengers, the safety of citizens and will avoid major disruptions of cross-border rail operations and shuttle services after the UK's withdrawal," the EC said in a statement on Tuesday.

The EC said three months should be sufficient time for new permanent arrangements to be agreed on. Its proposal, which must be approved by EU members and the European Parliament, follows a slew of other contingency plans for issues such as social benefits and air traffic.

Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel said last month it was taking steps to ensure that any no-deal Brexit would have a minimal impact on its transport network.

Mrs May's government has also said goods arriving from the EU - including via the Channel Tunnel - will be allowed into the UK without full Customs checks for at least three months after any no-deal Brexit.

Despite such moves, the EU says a no-deal Brexit would entail significant economic damage and its contingency plans are to ensure only basic connectivity, falling well short of regulating all separation issues or new post-Brexit ties.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2019, with the headline 'EU unveils contingency plan to keep Channel Tunnel rail link open'. Print Edition | Subscribe