EU Parliament adopts rules to keep Eurotunnel working

A Eurostar train during the arrival of a new direct Eurostar train connection from Amsterdam to London St Pancras in London, Britain, 04 February 2020. [EPA-EFE/WILL OLIVER]

The European Parliament adopted temporary rules on Thursday (17 December) to allow the Eurotunnel handling vehicle and freight traffic under the Channel between the UK and France to keep operating.

The decision will allow cars and trucks to continue to be loaded onto Eurotunnel’s Le Shuttle rail service through the Channel Tunnel despite a 31 December expiry of a transition period brought about by Brexit, a statement from the Parliament said.

It has to be approved by the European Council representing the EU’s 27 member states before it can come into force.

A new agreement on the management and operation of the Channel Tunnel has yet to be worked out between France and the United Kingdom.

“To avoid rail traffic being interrupted in the Channel Tunnel Fixed Link as of 1 January 2021, the Parliament agreed to temporarily extend safety licences and certificates to allow France and the UK sufficient time to conclude a bilateral agreement,” the statement said.

No light yet at end of Channel Tunnel Brexit talks

Talks between France and the United Kingdom over the management of the Channel Tunnel risk failing as the EU’s plan for the rail link is “absolutely unacceptable”, a UK government minister said on Wednesday (16 December).

It said the licence for the management of Eurotunnel’s infrastructure would be extended to the end of February, and safety certificates and licences issued to UK companies under EU law would remain valid to the end of September.

The European Parliament’s adoption of the Eurotunnel rules under emergency procedure comes one day before the legislature is to vote on adopting other contingency plans to permit planes and trucks to provisionally keep moving between the EU and the UK.

Britain and the European Union are inching towards a deal meant to set out a future trade, travel and security relationship, but a breakthrough is so far elusive.

A post-Brexit transition period comes to an end on December 31, after which Britain will no longer be in the EU’s single market nor bound by its laws.

The European Parliament agreed last month to task France with negotiating post-Brexit management of the Channel tunnel with Britain.

The tunnel hosts both the Eurotunnel’s Le Shuttle operations and, separately, the Eurostar passenger train service linking London and Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels.

Eurostar, majority owned by France’s SNCF rail group, says its trains will keep running after 1 January.

Eurostar on the ropes and ‘fighting for survival’

Cross-Channel high-speed rail operator Eurostar is “fighting for survival” and has urged the UK government to help it ride out a coronavirus-induced collapse in passenger numbers, as Westminster this week signed off on tax relief for major airports in England.

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