The UK government has warned the EU to stay clear from the Channel Tunnel after Brussels requested that the EU have governance over the link between England and France, a move that have been described as a “power grab” by experts.
This is the latest attempt by Michel Barnier’s negotiating squad to impose EU controlling power over British territory which could also be used to block trade deals with other countries.
David Frost’s negotiating team accused the EU of politicising the trade negotiations and overreaching with their threats to ban UK food exports to European countries, while also alleging that the EU is trying to stop former international trade secretary Liam Fox from becoming the new director of the World Trade Organisation.
The demand for the EU to take charge of the Channel Tunnel was added to the negotiation process in late August and is capable of giving Brussels and the European Court of Justice control of the line through Kent to St Pancras station in London.
For decades now, the Channel has been governed via a bilateral agreement between Britain and France in the Treaty of Canterbury. But the UK government has sent a clear hands-off message to the EU over the Channel.
“We have put in place a number of robust measures to ensure critical services continue through the Channel Tunnel at the end of the transition period and are now in discussions with France to agree on long-term arrangements that will give operators long-term certainty.
“Any bilateral agreement must fully respect the UK’s status as an independent sovereign nation – we will never sign up to demands to align with EU laws or be subject to the EU having a say,” a government spokesperson said.
This comes in the middle of the row over the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Internal Market Bill to stop the EU cutting off food supplies to Northern Ireland which the EU and its Remainer supporters said breached international law considering the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.
“This is nothing less than a blatant power grab by the EU, which seeks to usurp a bilateral arrangement that is sound in international law in order to be able to impose EU regulation and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK,” civil servant Caroline Bell wrote.
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke noted, “Time and again we have seen the French use the Channel Tunnel route to extend French interests and gain commercial advantage.
“This is another blatant French-inspired EU power grab to further French and not British trade interests. We should be resolute in making sure that arrangements on British soil work for us.”
While former Brexit minister David Jones pointed out that… “This is yet another example of where the EU needs to learn to be flexible.”
However, EU trade negotiation will continue this week in London with time running out for a deal to happen between the two sides.
Some persons close to Lord Frost described last week’s discussions as being a useful week but also warned that a wide gap still exists on the difficult areas such as fish and state aid.
“We are still not seeing enough realism from the Commission. Some of their asks are at odds with the fact that on January 1 next year we will be an independent nation,” one of them said.
Meanwhile, the EU retraced it steps on threats to block food exports from the UK.
“Previously, the EU had threatened that they might not list the UK as a ‘third country’, despite knowing perfectly well what our food standards rules currently are – because they are the same as the EU’s.
“This would have prevented the UK not only from exporting certain foods to the EU but also from exporting from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.” a source said.
Although, Mr Barnier told the British team recently that there would be no obstacle to listing the UK and that the normal process would be observed. The UK government officials believes that this shows the EU’s threats didn’t come from a genuine policy concern at all.
A strong source close to Lords Frost’s team said, “It’s welcome that the EU has come to their senses and backed down on their threats which would have amounted to a blockade on British food. Withholding listing for the UK would have been an extraordinary step when they allow exports from dozens of countries around the world.”
There is also concern that the EU intentionally refused to support Dr Fox’s move to become the director of the WTO and voted for four other candidates.
“Liam’s progression through this process is evidence of the global support we can command as a country with a huge reputation for supporting free trade. Whatever the eventual outcome of the nomination, it’s clear the UK doesn’t need EU support to make an impact as an independent nation,” A Whitehall source hinted.