Thursday, 30 July 2020
France and the UK may have to negotiate a new bilateral agreement on the Eurotunnel, now that it has become unclear who has jurisdiction over the passway following Brexit.
The Eurotunnel forms a direct 35-minute railway connection between Calais and Folkestone, and is the only fixed link between the UK and Europe. Passengers and their vehicles (including cars) are loaded onto shuttles, which are then transported by two locomotives in a train-like manner.
The European Commission asked the European Parliament and the European Council to empower the state of France to start negotiations on jurisdiction with the UK. In the new deal, preferably, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would be granted the power to resolve any future conflicts regarding the operation of the railway.
Chaos may ensue in the operation of the tunnel unless an agreement is reached, insider sources told The Guardian. “It would mean train drivers would have to have two sets of qualifications to drive on the British and French side of the tunnel.”
“It would affect how you operate the tunnel with potential for divergence in the future on everything from signalling, voltage, the radio systems, the signalling system, ventilation, hydraulics. It would be like driving on the left- and right-hand side of the road at the same time.”
The agreement, however, would ensure that the ‘trains’ will keep running smoothly.
The EU would like to see the UK accept the ECJ’s potential role in solving issues related to the Eurotunnel. However, The Guardian reports that Downing Street is unlikely to accept this deal, with one senior official saying there could be no such “halfway house.”
The European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, Michel Barnier, reportedly accepted that the proposed deal would likely be a “non-starter.”
An alternative to granting the ECJ judicial power would be to call on the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague for conflict resolution.
The European Commission has been working on an integrated rail system for the EU since 2008, which would improve the compatibility of cross-border train tracks (such as differences in voltage), and promote international use of trains as a greener alternative to motorised transport.
The Brussels Times