An undersea tunnel between Great Britain and Northern Ireland could get the green light as early next month in an effort to help unblock trade which has been hit by Brexit tensions.
he tunnel – which would be the same length as the one to France – would create the first ever fixed link between all four nations of the United Kingdom and would possibly be dubbed ‘Boris’ burrow’, according to a report in the Sunday Telegraph.
Any new connection could also appease unionists who have expressed displeasure at the way the Government has allowed the European Union to impose new checks on ferry cargo heading to Northern Ireland.
A new study by the chairman of Network Rail Sir Peter Hendy will say whether a link between Stranraer in Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland is workable.
It comes after the UK Government is thought to have already privately threatened to increase friction on goods entering the EU unless Brussels backs down.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is now thought to be considering an alternate “mutual enforcement” plan which would restore the border to the island of Ireland. It would also require the UK and EU to apply checks at the same level as each other, The Telegraph has learned.
Despite hopes this would remove friction altogether while respecting the border between the UK and EU, UK officials have conceded the chances the chances of the Northern Ireland Protocol being renegotiated are slim.
On Saturday night DUP MP Sammy Wilson, whose East Antrim seat would host the Northern Ireland end of the tunnel, said: “This kind of project would at least give people in Northern Ireland the belief that the Government was prepared to put in infrastructure and spend money to make sure that we are physically connected.
“The important thing is to make sure that we are economically and constitutionally connected – that is far more important than a physical connection. But nevertheless symbolically it would be very important to hear this message.”
Sir Peter has met with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss findings, which could recommend the Government commissions a feasibility study of the project, with his interim report set to be published within weeks.
Mr Johnson first proposed a fixed link across the Irish Sea in 2018 and is therefore believed to have enthusiastically backed the project, along with Scottish secretary Alister Jack.
In an interview with Chopper’s Politics podcast, Mr Jack said he favoured a tunnel because “a bridge would be closed for probably 100 days a year with the weather in the Irish Sea” while also dealing with dumped munitions under water.
He said: “My strong inclination would be that he thinks it should be a tunnel because he and I have had conversations about the weather patterns in the Irish Sea and Beaufort’s Dyke, and there’s a munitions deposit there.”