A quarter of the trade between the UK and continental Europe flows through the Channel Tunnel, as does most of the Republic of Ireland’s road freight into mainland European Union markets. The company’s shares fell sharply after the Brexit referendum and it needs to generate new revenue streams. It plans to install power cables in the tunnel to carry electricity between France and the UK, a major investment that will require the support of British-based investors and customers, including the Leave-voting communities of Kent. In Brexit Britain, the language of critical infrastructure is politically charged.
Like the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, the Channel Tunnel has long been the focus of arguments about national identity and security. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, proposals for a tunnel were rebuffed repeatedly because of fears that it would weaken the national character and compromise the maritime defence of the “precious stone set in the silver sea”.
Only when Britain finally committed to membership of the European Economic Community in 1973, and nuclear arms had rendered reliance on naval defences increasingly redundant, did work on the Channel Tunnel properly commence. When it was opened in 1994, it symbolised Britain’s membership of the new European single market and the consolidation of mainstream political-economic support for continental engagement.
Continue here to read the full NewsStatesman article | || April 09, 2018 |||