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Channel Tunnel talks with France go well as EU role reduced

25 May 2021

The Minister responsible for the Channel Tunnel, Rachel Maclean MP, has reported to the European Scrutiny Committee that considerable progress has been made with the French authorities over a number of areas relating to safety on the fixed link.

This progress in talks with France is broadly in line with recommendations from the European Scrutiny Committee, which supported the position taken by the UK government that talks on issues relating to the tunnel should be between France and the UK and not with the EU.

The statement from Rachel Maclean MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Transport, came as part of the government’s formal response to a European Scrutiny Committee report on the management of the tunnel. The report, Brexit: the future operation of the Channel Tunnel Fixed Link was published on 23 February 2021. The government’s response is published by the Committee in full today and is attached to this press release.

The Committee was concerned, during its inquiry into the matter, that the European Commission wanted the tunnel to continue to be managed under EU law post Brexit and wanted the European Court of Justice to have jurisdiction over the tunnel. The government rejected both of these demands and the Committee supported it.

The Committee’s report on the tunnel made three main recommendations:

  • that the government makes it clear to the public that the UK and France will manage the tunnel post Brexit;
  • that the government ensures Parliament is kept abreast of any rule changes on the French or UK sides; and
  • that train operators are closely consulted on any changes to how the tunnel operates.

The government’s response to the Committee’s report said a cooperation agreement had been signed on 7 January 2021 between the relevant French and UK bodies running the tunnel. It was expected, the Minister said, that this agreement would be added to with various annexes covering the safe operation of the tunnel and trains.

The government response also said, again in line with the Committee’s position, that the government would notify Parliament on any changes in how the tunnel was to be managed.

The Committee argued that such an approach by the government would aid in the clarity and visibility of any proposed changes to the management of the tunnel.

The Minister informed the Committee that negotiations with France are progressing well and that the government is sticking to its ‘red lines’, key among which are no future alignment with EU law and no oversight by the European Court of Justice.

Further information

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