The European Union is working on an emergency plan (paywall) for the Channel Tunnel in the event that the UK ends up leaving the bloc without a deal—known as a “hard Brexit”, according to the Financial Times.
Even if Britain successfully manages to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU—something that is looking increasingly uncertain (paywall)—freight traveling through the undersea tunnel will likely face customs checks. Currently, there are no restrictions due to the UK still being within the 28-nation bloc. But in the event of a hard Brexit, rules surrounding borders and trade will naturally have to change, because no agreement over these issues would have been resolved.
Extra checks at the tunnel would likely increase delays. It’s a big deal because more than 20 million metric tons of freight are transported through the tunnel each year.
A no-deal Brexit would mean that the vast majority of British freight trucks would be blocked from using the tunnel to enter France on March 30, 2019—the day after Britain leaves the EU.
One approach being considered by the EU could see the tunnel continue to operate normally for a short period. Tariffs on goods transported could be applied in aggregate, based on trade volume estimates.
EU diplomats have not decided how long such an arrangement would last—it could be hours, weeks or months.
While the plan will be welcomed by businesses that rely on that main conduit for freight, Getlink, the firm in charge of running the tunnel, has warned that it is already too late to make arrangements for any other hard-Brexit scenario.