Tunnel to link Britain and Northern Ireland edges closer with new study recommended

Christopher Hope
·4-min read
Boris Johnson - AFP
Boris Johnson - AFP

An undersea tunnel between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will move a step closer this week when a Government review recommends a feasibility study into it.

A major Union Connectivity review is expected to say that civil servants should formally appraise the plans for “a fixed link” between the two islands, most probably between Stranraer in Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland.

The review by Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy is also expected to recommend a major upgrading of road and rail links between the four nations of the UK.

The undersea tunnel – details of which were first disclosed by The Telegraph last month – has already won the enthusiastic private backing of both Boris Johnson, who first proposed a fixed link across the Irish Sea in 2018, and Alister Jack, the Scotland Secretary.

The link – dubbed ‘Boris’s burrow’ – would be the same length as the Channel Tunnel and go some way to smoothing the flow of freight between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Sir Peter is understood to have rejected a bridge between Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the grounds that it may have to be closed for a third of the year due to bad weather.

There is also unexploded ordnance on the sea bed dating back to the Second World War which would be a risk to the structure and to the workers building it.

The Hendy review is also expected to recommend a major upgrading of road and faster rail links between the four nations of the UK.

One government source said: "It is very good news for union connectivity across the United Kingdom."

Scottish civil servants in Edinburgh who report to the SNP-led government were told not to engage with the Hendy review, despite the fact that Scots will benefit from it.

Concern about the future of the UK has now led to MPs in England setting up a WhatsApp group and working with the Conservative Union Resources Unit to work to preserve it.

Conservative MPs south of the Border are keen to work to help shore up the UK if the SNP win power again at May’s Scottish Parliament elections.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is expected to use any victory to press the case for an early vote on Scottish independence.

The Conservative Union Resources Unit has around 100 members and has started to meet weekly to coordinate efforts to protect the UK from the SNP’s attempts to break it up.

Senior Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin said: “It is in all our mutual interests that the SNP is not allowed to destroy the United Kingdom.”

Writing for The Telegraph, Sir Bernard said that last week’s Budget, which set up a new UK-wide Shared Prosperity Fund, allowed the Government to show that “it will not abandon the Scots to an incompetent and failing nationalist government”.

He said: “The nationalist government in Scotland has become more and more consumed by its separatist obsession. They recently decided to stop flying the Union Flag outside Scottish government buildings.

“Preoccupied by divisive gestures, they are careless of the real needs of Scots, for their jobs and financial security.

“Instead of supporting the UK connectivity review, which promotes improved rail and road links between the North of England and Scotland, they instructed their officials to refuse to cooperate.”

He added: “The record of the present nationalist administration strengthens the case for Scotland remaining in the UK, and for strengthening partnerships across the UK. The strongest argument for the UK is shown by this Budget.

“It increases support for Scotland, despite the objections of the nationalists. It has also inspired confidence in the UK, and so in Scotland too, across the entire world, despite the way the pandemic has ravaged the public finances.”

Separately Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross is set to accuse the SNP government of "breaking accountability to parliament".

In a speech being delivered on Monday, he will say the Scottish Parliament must be empowered to hold the executive to account.

Speaking to the Onward think tank, Mr Ross is due to say: "This sorry episode has undermined trust in the First Minister and in her government, but it has also shaken confidence in our Scottish Parliament.

"The Parliament has been tested to its limits in its ability to hold the SNP government to account and it has been found wanting.

"That is not the fault of individual parliamentarians but of a structure which has given the SNP all of the cards it needs to frustrate the opposition.

"By deliberately breaking the accountability of government to parliament, the SNP are damaging devolution and the institution that gives them the authority to govern Scotland’s public services."