A senior Tory today ridiculed ‘hallucinogenic’ plans for a 25-mile undersea tunnel connecting Britain with Northern Ireland – demanding ministers focus on fixing the Brexit rules instead.
There are claims the huge project could be declared feasible within weeks, with hopes it will help facilitate trade with the mainland amid rising tensions over the protocol sealed with the EU.
Experts believe the tunnel, being dubbed Boris Burrow’, could cost up to £10billion to create – though that would be roughly half as much as it would cost to build a bridge.
It would be a similar length to the Channel tunnel, and run from Stranraer in Scotland, to Larne.
A review of links within the UK is currently being carried out by the chairman of Network Rail, Peter Hendy. He is already believed to have discussed the tunnel with the PM, and could release his report in the coming weeks.
But the Tory chair of the Northern Ireland Select Committee, Simon Hoare lampooned the idea today. Echoing comments that the Channel Tunnel took 30 years to get built, and the issue of weapons that were sunk in the Irish Sea after the war, he tweeted: ‘The trains could be pulled by an inexhaustible herd of Unicorns overseen by stern, officious dodos.
‘A PushmePullYou could be the senior guard and Puff the Magic Dragon the inspector.
‘Let’s concentrate on making the Protocol work and put the hallucinogenics down.’
He added: ‘Also another ”minor hurdle” is the NI railway gauge is an ”all Ireland” gauge which is different to that used in GB. I’m not Brunel but I think this might be a bit of a problem.’
The Tory chair of the Northern Ireland Select Committee, Simon Hoare, lampooned the idea of a tunnel today
Plans for 25-mile tunnel connecting Stranraer, Scotland, and Larne, Northern Ireland, is expected to get the go ahead within a matter of weeks
The latest plan for the link between Britain and Northern Ireland have been modelled on the Channel tunnel, connecting the UK and France, which accommodates both trains, cars and HGVS, according to The Sunday Times.
Costs to carry out previous proposals by Alan Dunlop, the architect who first came up with the idea for a Scotland to Northern Ireland tunnel, were estimated at between £8billion and £10billion.
Tensions have been mounting since the Brexit transition period came to an end over the New Year and the EU subsequently introduced checks on cargo entering Northern Ireland by ferry, disrupting its trade with the UK.
While discussions for the proposed tunnel rumble on, Michael Gove is believed to be proposing a ‘mutual enforcement’ plan.
His plan would see the Northern Irish border restored and the same checks applied to both UK and EU trade.
But officials are said to have acknowledged an alteration to the Northern Ireland protocol is unlikely.
As part of Brexit negotiations, the UK and EU agreed to the Northern Ireland protocol which is designed to avoid the need for a border on the island of Ireland.
But this has led to disruption on goods crossing the Irish Sea, with new checks imposed on those moving from Britain to the province.
Since the arrangements came into force on January 1, supermarkets have reported empty shelves while concerns have been raised that Northern Ireland’s place within the UK is being undermined.
Network Rail, Peter Hendy, has been looking into whether the 25-mile tunnel would be possible and has already met with the Prime Minster (pictured) to discuss his findings
Amid growing tensions, graffiti has been daubed on buildings and checks at ports have been suspended following threats against staff.
At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Mr Johnson said he would take the drastic step of suspending parts of the Brexit agreement unless the problems can be resolved in crisis talks with the EU.
The Government has demanded some checks are removed, while existing grace periods on goods such as chilled meats are extended until 2023.
It is expected the Network Rail chairman, Mr Hendy, will advise the Government to set up a feasibility study for the tunnel.
A link between Scotland and Northern Ireland was first proposed by Boris Johnson during the Tory leadership race in 2018 in the form of a bridge.
‘What we need to do is build a bridge between our islands,’ he declared, during an interview that was highly critical of Theresa May’s leadership.
Michael Gove (pictured) is believed to be proposing a ‘mutual enforcement’ plan which would see the Northern Irish border restored and the same checks applied to both UK and EU trade
The tunnel which would run from Stranraer, Scotland, to Larne, Northern Ireland, would be a similar length to the Channel tunnel
‘Why don’t we? Why don’t we? There is so much more we can do, and what grieves me about the current approach to Brexit is that we are just in danger of not believing in ourselves, not believing in Britain.’
At the time the proposal was ridiculed by some but it appears the suggestion could become a reality.
Both he and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack are believed to be firm supporters of the plans which are said to be similar to the 23.5mile deep Channel tunnel.
Speaking the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast, Mr Jack explained a tunnel was the preferred option because ‘a bridge would be closed for probably 100 days a year with the weather in the Irish Sea’.
When first proposed there were also concerns about Beautfort’s Dyke, a trench in the North Channel where tons of munitions were dumped after the Second World War, and whether it would be logistically plausible.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said: ‘This kind of project would at least give people in Northern Ireland the belief that the Government was prepared to put in infrastructure and spend money to make sure that we are physically connected.’