The European Parliament has agreed a set of temporary rules aimed at keeping the Channel tunnel open to rail traffic after 31 December.
Whatever happens in the new few days in negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal, the international agreement governing the operation of the Channel tunnel will expire.
France was mandated by the parliament back in October to negotiate a new agreement which would fix the existing Intergovernmental Commission as the main safety authority for the tunnel.
However those negotiations are not yet complete, so the Commission proposed temporary rules to bridge the gap until the international agreement with the UK can be concluded.
That proposal was also agreed by Coreper, the committee of permanent representatives to the EU, effectively representing the governments of the member states.
To avoid a situation where traffic was no longer able to run from New Year’s Day because of the absence of valid safety certificates, the terms of those certificates – issued under EU law to the UK while it was a member state of the Union – will be extended for nine months.
“By temporarily extending the validity of these safety authorisations and certificates, the measure gives the French authorities more time to arrange the future binational administration, so that railways can continue to operate in the Channel tunnel after 1 January,” Coreper said in a statement.
“Without this measure, traffic in the Channel Tunnel, a fundamental connectivity link between the EU and the UK, would be interrupted.”
The parliament is due today to pass another set of temporary measures to ensure the continuity of cross-border travel between the UK and EU by air and, in the case of the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, by road.
The temporary rules have to be approved by the Council of Ministers before they can come into force. However with Coreper having given their approval, that would appear to be a formality.