Tunnel Buzz

17 August 2016

So the referendum came and went, and the UK looks set to leave the European Union. Emotions are high and column inches long when it comes to the topic so I won’t add my refl ections on the politics or economics of the situation here.

Instead, I will look at the most tangible link between Britain and the continent: the Channel Tunnel. Owner and operator of the link, Eurotunnel, has released a statement in light of the vote to reassure interested parties that it considers its future is still positive as a “motor for development in the UK and continental Europe”. It expects to be unaffected by the referendum result and gives the following reasons:

  • The Channel Tunnel was established under the Treaty of Canterbury signed 30 years ago by the British and French governments [not an EU treaty]
  • The United Kingdom has never been part of the Schengen [EU free movement] area; people and goods travelling through the Channel Tunnel will remain subject to current border control procedures
  • A reduction in the value of GBP would reduce the amount of the Group’s debt in that currency would increase costs for maritime competitors and would support British exports, which would compensate for any potential negative effects.
  • The Channel Tunnel is an important element in the supply chain between the UK and continental Europe.
  • The Channel Tunnel provides a “unique level of speed, ease, and security" to the 21 million tourists and business travellers who use it each year.

Eurotunnel has expressed fears of a potential rush of migrants trying to pass illegally from France to the UK. Such crossings pose an enormous risk to the lives of migrants, as well as potential risks to passengers, services and damage to equipment.

The rationale is that a post-EU Britain could become excessively isolationist, able to act as it sees fi t to keep migrants out of the country. This could potentially, Eurotunnel believes, cause large-scale, frequent attempts on the border before Brexit becomes reality.

According to reports from the BBC and the Independent, Eurotunnel’s response has been to increase security, with 500 additional cameras, fences with motion sensors, and now drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras all being used to police the French side of the tunnel. The company does not wish to see another checkpoint at the British portal.

Whether the local French authorities in Calais will tolerate the ongoing migrant disruption is another matter for Eurotunnel to contend with