The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, suggested last week at the summit meeting between the Governments of the United Kingdom and France, that consideration should be given to the construction of a new channel crossing. As at Dartford, he has suggested that we should have a Channel Bridge, as well as a Channel Tunnel, although bridging the world’s busiest shipping route would be no mean feat. The idea of a bridge over the channel was considered in the 1980s, but rejected in favour of the tunnel we have now. The Channel Tunnel is still operating below its potential capacity, so that, along with the Port of Dover, will be able to cope with the rising demand for road freight to carry our trade to and from the continent, as well as personal journeys. However, that does not mean that we shouldn’t engage in blue skies thinking about the infrastructure we might need in twenty years’ time.
There are more pressing infrastructure requirements for Kent at the moment, with the need to complete the proposed third Thames crossing, connecting north Kent with Essex. We also need to make the A2/M2 route from Dover into London a complete motorway and dual carriageway corridor, to complement the M20 route to the channel crossing points. As I have written about in this column in recent weeks, building the £250million Operation Stack relief lorry park, is also important for managing freight when congestion is caused by vehicles that cannot leave the country. We may need this facility as well, if for any reason post Brexit, there are delays in processing goods entering or leaving the country.
At their meeting last week, the Prime Minister Theresa May, and President Macron of France, also discussed their joint commitment to maintaining the increased levels of security around the Port of Calais, and the Channel Tunnel at Cocquelles. The extra policing and security fencing provided over the last two years have greatly reduced the number of disturbances to services, caused by migrants in the Calais area trying to board lorries approaching the Port and the Tunnel. It is right as well that we should do all we can to make sure that migrants in the Calais area, who have a clear legal right to asylum in the UK, should have their applications processed as quickly as possible. The same should also apply to the French government, with regards to those migrants who want to stay in that country. When I visited the previous Calais Jungle camp, it was clear that there were people there who wanted to stay in France, and make their asylum claim there; they were not all trying to get to England. Furthermore, there were also people living in that camp, out of sheer desperation, because the French authorities had either told them there was nowhere else to go, or because the official accommodation they had been offered was worse than the conditions in the Jungle. We are doing our bit, by investing in security in the Calais area, and making sure that those with the right to asylum in the UK have their cases properly dealt with. The French government needs to do the same.