The EU has been instructed to stay away from the post-Brexit future of the Channel Tunnel talks … an effort to have a deal without Brussels interference after it sees its role in the talks over the rail link between Britain and France reduced after some recommendations from senior MPs.
Rachel Maclean, the minister responsible for the Channel Tunnel, has reported “considerable progress” in negotiations between the UK government and the French authorities.
Rachel said the discussions are in line with recommendations that have been made by the Commons European Scrutiny Committee. Meanwhile, the MPs, led by veteran Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash, said the negotiations should be between London and Paris only… the EU should stay clear.
Following the recommendation, the UK has rejected all attempts by the European Commission to ensure the cross-Channel tunnel is discussed under the European Union regulations.
In response to the committee, Rachel said, “I very much share the Committee’s views on the importance of the Channel Tunnel, noting the significant social and economic benefits it brings to the UK and the vital role it plays in our cross-border trade with mainland Europe and the rest of the world.
“That is why the Government is committed to its future success. A key part of that is negotiating bilateral agreements at pace with France which will provide for the long-term continued smooth operation of Channel Tunnel operations, in a manner fully consistent with the UK’s status as an independent, sovereign nation.”
The European Commission was hoping to influence the talks over Channel Tunnel safety issues with the intention of locking Britain to Brussels regulations and control things like licences for train drivers, safety certificates and operator licences.
However, a couple of bilateral deals are possible in the coming weeks with France over the management of the Channel Tunnel which has been an issue of concern due to Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.
The current running of the Channel in terms of safety standards and driver qualifications is done by a 1986 Anglo-French treaty. But, as Britain has left the EU, the agreement is no longer relevant.
Therefore… the need to replace the agreement, otherwise British and French stretches would fall under separate regimes like train drivers needing two separate sets of qualifications to operate through the channel.
The EU permitted France to negotiate a new treaty with Britain under strict conditions that it would replicate the status quo. But a leaked document that surfaced last summer, revealed that the EU wanted to keep control of the whole infrastructure including in its section under the jurisdiction of the UK.
The UK government has, however, rejected all attempts to keep the rail link bound by ECJ decisions for disputes covering EU rules.