Warn­ing of travel chaos if there is no Brexit deal

The Herald - - FRONT PAGE - MICHAEL SET­TLE

TRAV­ELLERS to Europe face “chaos” if there is a no-deal Brexit, op­po­si­tion politi­cians have warned fol­low­ing the re­lease of more UK Govern­ment con­tin­gency pa­pers.

The fi­nal batch of 104 tech­ni­cal no­tices warns cross-bor­der rail ser­vices, in­clud­ing Eurostar trains to the Con­ti­nent, could be sus­pended with­out spe­cific agree­ments with France and Bel­gium.

Eurostar, which runs about 40 di­rect ser­vices a day via the Chan­nel Tun­nel from Lon­don to Paris, Brus­sels, Am­s­ter­dam and other des­ti­na­tions, cur­rently holds only a UK li­cence.

It would have to ap­ply for new li­cences, cer­tifi­cates and au­tho­ri­sa­tions from the EU rail reg­u­la­tor to con­tinue ser­vices.

The Govern­ment ad­vice states: “Pas­sen­gers us­ing cross-bor­der ser­vices are re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing their in­sur­ance and ticket terms and con­di­tions are suf­fi­cient to cover pos­si­ble dis­rup­tion.”

It also ex­plains the UK is seek­ing bi­lat­eral ar­range­ments with France, Bel­gium, the Nether­lands and Ire­land to “fa­cil­i­tate the con­tin­ued smooth func­tion­ing of cross-bor­der rail ser­vices”.

The no­tice adds: “Given the large amount of trade and cit­i­zens trav­el­ling on these ser­vices it is in both sides’

in­ter­ests to agree to such ar­range­ments.” Brexit Sec­re­tary Do­minic Raab sought to re­as­sure trav­ellers, say­ing they should not put off buy­ing rail tick­ets be­cause Bri­tain would work with its EU coun­ter­parts to en­sure they were able to travel and goods could be moved.

Op­po­si­tion politi­cians were un­con­vinced. PRO-EU Labour peer Lord Ado­nis, the former trans­port sec­re­tary, said any sev­er­ing of the vi­tal train link be­tween Bri­tain and Europe would hurt thou­sands of trav­ellers and busi­nesses. “Brexit,” he said, “will bring about travel chaos.”

Ed­in­burgh West MP Chris­tine Jar­dine, for the Lib­eral Democrats, said: “Eurostar is a great ex­am­ple of Euro­pean co-op­er­a­tion and en­gi­neer­ing prow­ess. The fact that no-deal could put it out of ser­vice is sym­bolic of the mess the Govern­ment have made of Brexit.”

Among the con­tin­gency pa­pers, one warns the Sin­gle Elec­tric­ity Mar­ket on the is­land of Ire­land could cease to op­er­ate, hit­ting con­sumers on both sides of the bor­der.

Mr Raab stressed that even if the bi­lat­eral co-op­er­a­tion be­tween Lon­don and Dublin on en­ergy did not con­tinue, the UK would be pre­pared, say­ing: “We have got in­ter­con­nec­tors and the reg­u­la­tory mea­sures that the Govern­ment can take to make sure Northern Ire­land main­tains the en­ergy sup­ply it needs.”

North East Fife MP Stephen Gethins, for the SNP, said the lat­est doc­u­ments should serve as a “wake-up call” to avoid a hard Brexit. “If the Prime Min­is­ter is se­ri­ous about pro­tect­ing the rights of peo­ple in the UK, rather than pan­der­ing to the ex­treme Brex­iters within her own party, the UK Govern­ment must com­mit to re­main­ing in the sin­gle mar­ket and the cus­toms union,” he said.

Mean­while, Theresa May tried to re­as­sure her col­leagues she would never agree to a back­stop – the ar­range­ment should a trade deal not hap­pen – that “traps” the UK per­ma­nently in the cus­toms union.

Mr Raab echoed the point, say­ing: “The back­stop would have to be fi­nite, it would have to be short and it would have to be time-lim­ited for it to be sup­ported here. What we can­not do is see the UK locked in via the back door to a cus­toms union ar­range­ment, which would leave us in an in­def­i­nite limbo.”

Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner Guen­ther

Oet­tinger ad­mit­ted it “does ap­pear pos­si­ble there will be a break­through” at the Oc­to­ber 17/18 sum­mit, con­firm­ing White­hall op­ti­mism a deal is near on the back­stop for the Ir­ish bor­der.

In Northern Ire­land, Nigel Dodds, the Demo­cratic Union­ists’ deputy leader, said he ex­pected de­vel­op­ments over the week­end “in terms of the Govern­ment’s own po­si­tion and the Cabinet”.

The DUP is adamant it will not agree to any­thing that re­sults in ex­tra cus­toms be­tween Northern Ire­land and the rest of the UK.

Else­where, it was sug­gested UK of­fi­cials were con­sid­er­ing plans to al­low an ex­ten­sion of the tran­si­tion pe­riod be­yond De­cem­ber 2020, to pos­si­bly De­cem­ber 2021, to avoid the need for a back­stop ever com­ing into force.

Such a move would cre­ate other prob­lems. It would en­rage Brex­iters as it would keep Bri­tain in a Nor­way op­tion-style sce­nario for longer, it would mean billions of pounds more in ex­tra pay­ments on top of its £39bn divorce bill and it would mean the coun­try would not take con­trol of its fishing wa­ters un­til De­cem­ber 2021 at the ear­li­est.

Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond all but con­firmed an ex­ten­sion of the tran­si­tion pe­riod would be nec­es­sary by say­ing: “It is true that there needs to be a pe­riod – prob­a­bly fol­low­ing the tran­si­tion pe­riod that we’ve ne­go­ti­ated and be­fore we en­ter into our long-term part­ner­ship – just be­cause of the time it will take to im­ple­ment the sys­tems re­quired.”

„ Eurostar ser­vices to and from the Con­ti­nent could be hit in event of a no-deal Brexit.

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