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EU announces plans to keep Channel Tunnel rail link open after no-deal Brexit

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission announced plans on Tuesday to keep the rail link with Britain through the Channel Tunnel open on current terms for three months after a no-deal Brexit in an effort to minimise disruption expected from any abrupt split.

The United Kingdom is on track to leave the European Union on March 29 without a deal unless Prime Minister Theresa May can convince the bloc to amend the divorce deal she agreed last year and get it approved by British lawmakers.

The proposal by the European Union’s executive arm would extend safety authorisations for the Channel Tunnel rail link, provided that the UK also maintained identical safety standards.

“This will ensure the protection of rail-passengers, the safety of citizens and will avoid major disruptions of cross-border rail operations and shuttle services after the UK’s withdrawal,” the Commission said in a statement.

The Commission said three months should be sufficient time for new permanent arrangements to be agreed.

Its proposal, which must be approved by EU member states and the European Parliament, follows a slew of other contingency plans dealing with issues ranging from student exchanges and social benefits to air and road traffic.

The Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel said last month it was taking steps to ensure that any ‘no-deal’ Brexit would have minimal impact on its transport network.

May’s government has also said that goods arriving from the EU – including through the Channel Tunnel – will be allowed into the United Kingdom without full customs checks for at least three months after any no-deal Brexit.

Despite such moves, the EU says a no-deal Brexit would entail significant economic damage and that its contingency plans are only to ensure basic connectivity, falling well short of regulating all separation issues or new post-Brexit ties.

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