By Fra Hughes – Mar 1, 2021
Why does the idea of a tunnel between the west coast of Scotland and the Northeast coast of Ireland induce such merriment and ridicule from so many in the media and in society at large?
No one is suggesting that all flights between Britain and the North of Ireland should be cancelled. That the ferries which operate between Belfast and Stranraer, Larne and Cairnryan, Belfast and Liverpool should stop. Then why is there such hostility to a further transport link between the island of Ireland and the island of Britain?
The Channel Tunnel links Britain to mainland Europe. It has improved Commerce, freight and passenger travel, access to and from Britain’s producers and European markets.
It has been a significant boost to the economy, as a gateway for British exports and a conduit for people to travel freely between the island of Britain and the European mainland.
No one suggests that this tunnel is not of benefit to both Europe and Britain, and no one suggests that the idea of building the tunnel was a mistake.
Therefore a 25-mile tunnel between Ireland and Scotland costing an estimated 10 billion pounds, would be an obvious boost to tourism, the economy, business and Commerce. Any projects that improve the road and rail infrastructure in any single country or between countries has a proven record of being a financial and commercial success. People’s connections benefit too.
While the cost may seem prohibitive, it has been proven that toll roads, toll bridges, and toll tunnels, are an investment that with time will be repaid to the public or private purse.
If we couple the idea of a tunnel that operates 365 days a year regardless of the weather, regardless of storms in the Irish Sea, regardless of conditions that stop ferries from travelling or flights from flying, a tunnel could also be a Lifeline between the United Kingdom and Europe.
As part of the Brexit negotiations between Brussels and London, it was agreed that while Northern Ireland remains a part of the United Kingdom, it would be given special status as an entry point to the European market. As part of an All-Ireland policy within Europe. This would prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland protecting the gains achieved through the Good Friday Agreement. Which ended for some the historic Republican war of national liberation.
It allows politics to replace the gun and the choice of all the people in the nation of Ireland to decide its future without British interference.
The North of Ireland has a special status within the European Market. Northern Ireland because of its position within the United Kingdom still has unfettered access to the internal commercial markets of the United Kingdom.
The Irish Sea tunnel between Scotland and Ireland will allow empty trucks to travel from England, Scotland and Wales via the tunnel to the North of Ireland. From the North of Ireland, they can access ports in the Republic of Ireland in order to pick up goods and services from the European Union. They would leave Ireland empty and return filled with goods. As they are entering Ireland from Europe these goods should be not subject to any border checks. This freight and these vehicles can travel unimpeded and unhindered to Belfast and onto the tunnel to access the British mainland.
If goods in transit can travel from the Republic of Ireland to the North of Ireland and are not subject to Customs checks other than for smuggling or illegal transactions and the North of Ireland is part of the United Kingdom’s internal market then an opportunity exists for the North of Ireland to be used as a conduit for those in Great Britain who want to access the European single market without the delays for customs checks at the English ports on the English Channel.
Farm produce, meat and fish are subject to inspection from Uk into Europe via Northern Ireland.
The negotiated Brexit agreement has put Northern Ireland in a very strong position with regards to its unique relationship with the European Union.
From company headquarters to financial institutions, The north of Ireland is now an ideal base for UK companies to transact business with Europe.
The tunnel will undoubtedly improve commerce between Europe, Ireland and the UK. It will improve tourism between Europe, Ireland and the UK and it will encourage further reintegration of the North of Ireland with the Republic of Ireland in a new prosperous relationship leading to future reunification
Featured image: File Photo
Fra Hughes is an Irish political activist, commentator, and author. His most recent books are My Walk with Palestine: an Activist's Tale and Voices from Donbass.
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