UK-France Euro Route

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You may say I'm a dreamer, in the words of the poet Lennon, but I'm not the only one. It was back in the 1980s that EuroRoute proposed a magnificent scheme to the British and French governments, backed by such names as Barclays and Trafalgar House. The EuroRoute involved both a road and a rail link, and it strikes me as tragic that we didn't choose it
Time to reconquer France Even as I write these words, I can hear the anguish in the voice of my constituent. Every morning she gets up and looks at the mist rising from the meadows of Oxfordshire; and every morning she dreads the bulldozers biting through the hedges and the habitats, and in her mind's eye she sees the rabbit-hutch housing filling the fields, and in her agony she turns to me and wonders. Of course she wants homes for British families, she says; but is there no where else they can go? And as house prices rise and the traffic gets ever slower, and as the clamour mounts for water and sewerage and space and gardens, and as ever more young couples go miserably to their MPs to say they cannot afford to get on the housing ladder, it is time for real bravery and radicalism. We politicians must either betray the green belt, or look harder at all the alternatives, no matter how barmy they may at first appear. It was not long ago that my brilliant friend and colleague John Redwood proposed that we should create a new city of 150,000 by reclaiming land from the sea. He was going to turn the Essex coast into a kind of Venetian archipelago, with Simon Heffer filling the dusk of the Isola di Canvey with his gondolier-style song. While I in no way wish to detract from the beauty of the coming Redwood polderland, I want to lead you to a yet more gorgeous landscape, a place where there are already hundreds of thousands of lovely homes - and going for a quarter of the English price. The place I am thinking of has sensational food, and sunshine and clean hospitals and trains that can travel at 357 mph and waiters with a far better command of English than you can find in London. Yes, my friends, I am taking us to France, and the lands that used to be English, and that could be English once more - or more English than they are now. In his Histoire d'Angleterre, André Maurois points out that the Seine and the Thames used both to be tributaries of the same great primaeval river, and that it was only in the past 8,000 years - a twinkling - that the melting glaciers turned that river into the Channel. Well, I say it is time we forded that river again; it is time for another fixed link across our national moat. Because, in spite of our existing rail link, the Channel is serving to pen in the English, and to push up our house prices, and to prevent us from spilling naturally back into Artois and Normandy and Aquitaine and all the other bits of France that we held, one way or another, until we lost Calais in 1558. In one sense, the economic arguments are overwhelming. The population density in southern England is about four times greater than much of northern France; and the central point is that our house prices, by comparison with those in France, are therefore demented. We have a position in which millions of desperate consumers are separated from the commodities they need by a paltry stretch of water, and in their desperation they are preparing to carve into what is left of the southern English countryside. It is no use just urging folk to go and live in the north of England, and in any event houses in the north of England are still more expensive than those in France. This is a logistics problem, a transport problem, and it demands vision. We must accept, first, that the existing fixed link - the Eurostar and Eurotunnel system - is not doing the job its creators imagined. The trains are pricey, they break down, and even if you load your car on at Folkestone and take it off at Calais, you still have a half an hour check-in, or an hour if you have pets. What you do not have is that vital psychological sense of connexion, a road link between Britain and France as simple as the M4 from London to Slough. You might not commute, but you would have the constant sense of potential. Imagine the bliss, the freedom, of getting into your car (either a hybrid, let us say, or one of the coming race of hydrogen-fuelled vehicles) and flooring it across the Channel in half an hour. You may say I'm a dreamer, in the words of the poet Lennon, but I'm not the only one. It was back in the 1980s that EuroRoute proposed a magnificent scheme to the British and French governments, backed by such names as Barclays and Trafalgar House. The EuroRoute involved both a road and a rail link, and it strikes me as tragic that we didn't choose it. Dial it up now, and you will see how the motorist goes out to sea on a big bridge, though no bigger than many already in existence. You then arrive at an island seven miles out, like a gigantic Fisher-Price kiddy kar park, and you descend a short spiral ramp to the sea-bed. You then proceed through the tunnel laid on the sea bed, like a vast double-barrelled shotgun buried in a trench. After about the length of the St Gotthard Pass, you spiral out through another Fisher-Price island, complete with casinos and hotels, on to another bridge and boom - you're in France. OK, it sounds nutty, put like that, but so did the motor car in the 1890s. You will point out that existing tunnel is already a financial black hole, and you will raise the spectre of terrorists and other undesirables coming the wrong way. But I don't think any of these objections ultimately fatal, and the big question is this. Are we really going to spend the next century with one fixed link, with the same measly tunnels and the same measly train set? Is that the best humanity can do in the face of 22 miles of shallow water? Look at the huge psychological impact of the 1999 Oresund bridge that links Denmark and Sweden, sundered by the same melting glaciers. We could repopulate northern France. We would alleviate the hideous pressure on the green belt, and we could physically reunite the English with their former territories. To all politicians in search of a legacy, this is the big one, and you read it here first.

46 thoughts on “UK-France Euro Route”

  1. I note that you refer to your constituents in the singular, and there was me thinking that rotten boroughs had been abolished. Nice to see Henley waving the flag for the feudal tradition. This is of course, why you are so keen to espouse the cause of spreading the influence of Norman landlords.

  2. It would be easier to start promoting greater integration with Europe and suggesting an exodus to France, than trying to find the political and financial backing for another massive infrastructure project. It is people that create links between geographical localities, at least in so far as this chicken-and-egg situation is concerned. Tried flying to Poland recently? It’s a doddle! But that’s a symptom of the physical, human link between these parts. And in that respect, those regions of France that once owed fealty to the English crown have less in common with Britain, than those happy dominions over the waves.

  3. Actually, the bridge linking Sweden and Denmark was a flop and a huge financial burden.
    It really is not used nearly as much as people originally thought. Although it has started to become slightly more popular to commute between Malmo and copenhagen it has failed to live up to the big expectations the builders had of it and failed to produce the income that people thought it would take.
    The bridge linking Zealand and jylland was a huge success which led the government to believe that the malmo-copenhagen bridge would be a similar success, but this was not the case. The reason why, was that even though there is just half an hour between them physically the fact that they are different countries makes the distance huge phsycologically so relativly few people are willing to commute between the two. Whereas the bridge linking zealand and Jylland is used a great deal because it links two areas of the same country so is phsycologically easier. It does not make much sense logically, but that is people for you.

  4. Brilliant idea Boris, except for that sentence about casinos at the end.

    It also brings to mind the French president after the war who wanted to merge into the UK. Why don’t we propose the reverse: we will merge into France. They can still get the queen (if they really like her so much) then when Chuck takes over perhaps we can all drop the monarchy and go for the “le President” route. Think of it: they are split down the middle, so we will always get the deciding vote. 😉

  5. Mellisa,

    The French are already a nation of tea lovers… Just as London is full of thriving coffee shops the easiest place to find a Salon du Té these days is in Paris.

  6. It’s a nice idea Boris, but are you seriously suggesting that for young office workers on London who are priced out of UK property, driving to France and back every day is a serious alternative?

    For a start, many workers in London forsake a car. You just don’t need a car when you work in Central London. Let’s say your commuter has a job in an office in Kingston Upon Thames. We’re talking about a 22.5 miles tunnel, a 90 mile drive from Dover to Kingston, say a 20 mile drive in France from his house to the tunnel. Thats 132.5 miles each way in rush hour conditions, 265 miles each day, 1325 miles a week, based on 4 weeks holiday 63,600 miles a year. I make that about £7,000 a year on fuel, not to mention the cost of running a vehicle.

    The tunnel would be a success, everyone would use it to drive over to Calais to buy beer, wines and fags, or just to pop over to France for lunch. With it’s commuter credentials and the need to keep it moving it would become a major smuggling route from drugs, counterfeit items, cigarettes and even people.

    < ‘Of course she wants homes for British families, she says; but is there no where else they can go?’<

    In other word anywhere but her back yard, so just to keep her happy how about we spend a few billion building a road link to France. You’ll have to come up with some better arguments than to keep Mrs X, Henley happy Boris.

    The only mammoth public civil engineering project that politicans should be giving any consideration is the Severn Barrage. This could creat 7% of our electricity needs from the tide at the expense of a few wading birds. Instead all the government can come up with to lower carbon emissions is to tax us an extra £5 on flights.

    I doubt your Dover to Calais road bridge and 60,000 mile a year EU commuters will do anything about reducing carbon either Boris.

  7. In fact, given a straight choice in a referendum between the Boris policy of ‘send the young to France’, the Sarah Barker policy of ‘build on the green belt’ or the UKIP policy of ‘leave the EU and halt immigration’ I wonder who would come out top.

    It would be tight between Ms Barker and Mr Farrage I’m afraid Boris, I fear you would come a miserable last place.

  8. This is my first time as a contributor to your blog, Mr Johnson, so the following comment applies only to what I have read in the above post. I regret that I haven’t had the time to read the rest of your work.

    You appear – in this instance – to have given up on any idea of Nation. Surely a proper control of immigration would be less ridiculous than what you have suggested here.

  9. Am I dreaming, or did Maggie propose a Channel bridge?

    Not a bad idea, Boris, except I enjoy the adventure of “going abroad”, which would not be an adventure if it was as convenient as driving to Slough.

  10. K,

    don’t forget that another factor in the bridge debate: the Denmark-Sweden commute by ferry between Helsingborg-Helsinor. It’s a lot cheaper than the bridge toll.

    I’ve watched programmes about folk who commute between London (work) and France (home): they seem to have to get up at 4.30am to leave by 5am to get to work for 9am and get home (France) after dark. Doesn’t seem like much of a life to me.

  11. I did once consider the feasibility of commuting from the Canary Islands.

    Planes are very Tuesday and Friday from Tenerife. If you could get your boss to allow you to work a 4 day week (Tuesday to Friday) you could be at work in London by 9am every Tuesday morning and go home Friday after work. You can get a cheap B&B in London for £20 a night, for 3 nights a week that’s £60. You can rent a small flat in a quiet part of Tenerife for £50 a week. Two four hour plane journeys a week and no other commuting. You spend your weekends in eternal sunshine drinking beer at £1.50 a pint and smoking fags at £1 a packet.

  12. Sir,
    Boris Johnson’s advice for legacy seeking politicians needs a first small step. This could be for the French to remove all their roadside tourist signs in Poutou-Charentes which misleadingly proclaim “La Route de Roi d’ Angleterre”, and instal new signs to herald “La Route de Roi Anglais”, which would be historically correct.

    Jim Caton
    Thames Ditton

  13. batterseaexile,
    Yes that is true. But here you can get short ferry trips too, normally quite cheaply so I cannot see how a bridge would be that great a help. Also where would the supposed bridge be Dover-Calais? I cannot see how that route would help people as there are too few jobs in these regions to make commuting viable for many people. At least with the Sweden-Denmark bridge it connected a capital city. Another concern would be the possible rise in illegal immigrants travelling from centres in France to England via the bridge. Also, I cannot see what is in it for France. It just seems to me that it would cause an increase in house prices for the French. And there is the issue of taxes. Does Britain loose money by letting people work in the UK, but pay taxes to the French government or do we expect the French government to provide services to British expats while the British government gets their taxes?

  14. ‘Sounds great Steven_L’ (Jaq)

    Searching around I found a one bed apartment in Costa Del Silencio, Tenerife for about £35,000. You need 40% down on a Spanish mortgage but Euro interest rates are low.

    I’m sure that there are other places you could commute from by budget airline for the week. Portugal is cheaper than the Costa Del Sol, Malta would be nice as well, you can rent a 2 bedroom flat there for 300 Euros a month. Then of course there are the Balearic Islands.

    It’s worth thinking about, if you rent a double room in a nice shared house in central London you are looking at £150 a week, plus £25 a week for a Zone 1 travelcard. Then you’ve got council tax to pay, gas, electricity etc.

    You can get 4 nights in a youth hostel for £50 – £80, a return flight is usually about £80 these days if you shop around, book in advance etc. I would imagine you could get some sort of season ticket if you were travelling every week.

    Ideally you need to find a nice island somewhere, with flights on a Friday night from the UK, and returning early hours of Sunday morning, that are suitably low in price.

  15. Err…….road bridge to France, wouldn’t there be an almighty crash in the middle with them moving over to drive on the left and us moving over to drive on the right?.

  16. The only problem with the Bridge, apart from ships crashing into it (it is going to be built in one of the busiest sealanes in the world that is also gifted with poor visibility and lousy weather) is that it would end up being submerged by the rising sea level caused by the extra carbon emissions of the millions of 100,000 kilometer a year commutes.

    Has it not occurred to Boris, that the reason property is cheap in the Pas de Calais is because it’s too far away to commute to work in Brussels or Paris.

  17. It does seem a bit like sticking a band aid on the problem. We cannot buy affordable housing in Britain so we will just subtly invade France and take their land, 2.54cm by subtle 2.54cm. Surely this will just create more problems in the long wrong. I would think it would be better to address the reasons why there is no affordable housing in Britain. The only problem is that in Britain this means someone is bound at some point in the discussion to committ the sin of un-pcness by either blaming immigration, health and safety rules, environmental stealth taxes etc and then of course it becomes a sin to discuss tackling the problem so we get nowhere.

  18. < ‘I would think it would be better to address the reasons why there is no affordable housing in Britain. The only problem is that in Britain this means someone is bound at some point in the discussion to committ the sin of un-pcness by either blaming immigration, health and safety rules, environmental stealth taxes etc and then of course it becomes a sin’ (k)<

    I don’t see where you are coming from on health and safety rules or stealth taxes. But positive net immigration is doubtless part of the problem. There are a hundred different theories out there about house prices. It’s something I’ve been reading up on. There seems to be lots of comment from people with vested interests, either political or economic on the subject. Personally I believe it’s more to do with low interest rates, the massive increase in the money supply through mortgage and other lending, lack of confidence/interest in the stock markets and pensions by the average investor and the general belief in the mind of the public that property is the number one investment to make and will keep rising indefinately.

    What we need is a recession, no politican will ever say that of course, but I don’t believe they actually have much control over the world economy or how much banks decide to lend. Inflation is seen as worse than unemployment in banking circles, if inflation carrys on interest rates will keep rising.

    The worst thing young people can do is prop the market up in my view, don’t buy, stay away from shared equity schemes, save your money, don’t spend on consumer goods and tell everyone you meet that you think the economy is about to go tits up and start a house price crash.

  19. Its all well and good saying we should start an economic crash and yes house prices will go down but hand in hand with people losing there jobs and there homes, so they may be cheaper but still no one will be able to buy as no money to buy with. It is all circular this will happen with everything till the end of time in England as it seems to me that everywhere down the line everyone must make as much money as possible.
    That’s why everything in this country is so expensive and this is the main problem the attitude. The belief we deserve everything cheap, something’s you must pay for.
    You could go on all day about what is wrong with England but unless you are politically active and trying to do something about it you have no right to complain.

  20. < ‘Its all well and good saying we should start an economic crash and yes house prices will go down but hand in hand with people losing there jobs and there homes, so they may be cheaper but still no one will be able to buy as no money to buy with.’ (Pedro)<

    I’m young, my parents have paid off their mortgage and have final salary pensions. They don’t charge me rent if I want to live at home. I can always get some sort of a job around here. I have no debts. I have no dependants either. In other words ‘I’ll be alright, Jack.’

    People losing their jobs and their homes is the only way I’ll ever be able to afford to own a home, save my parents kicking the bucket and I don’t want that. It might sound harsh, but on my side I’m fed up of the ‘I’m alright, Jack’ attitude of homeowners – I’ll be laughing as they hand in their keys.

  21. the thread seems to be drifting into deeper waters.

    I am a senior citizen without a mortgage and a family that live in rented accommodation, property inflation virtually rules out them getting on the property ladder,it goes without saying that they will be the beneficiary’s of Mrs c’s and my home…IHT not withstanding!…

    During our lifetime we have seen ups and downs in the country’s economy, remember the old adage, what goes up must come down, conversely, what goes down will come up.

    It is with this in mind that I pour scorn on G Broon’s rantings of his “no boom & bust with us” claptrap…he that sold half our gold reserve when it was at it’s lowest trading value some years ago costing the country billions of pounds, the man is an ignorant moron, the sooner he is out of English politics the better! perhaps then we will learn the true state of the economy.

    I am a firm believer that up and down cycles are a natural leveller of any vibrant economy, yes, negative equity is a soul destroying situation, but if people are sensible in managing their finances, this can be avoided, our first home had just a bed, a wardrobe, no carpet, highly polished Marley tiles, (thanks to my dear wife), and a couple of second hand easy chairs, no car, and a son on the way, income Eight pounds ten shillings a week, but we were happy!!!……and still are.

    Excuse my ramblings, I’m off to bed.

  22. < ‘I am a firm believer that up and down cycles are a natural leveller of any vibrant economy’ (churstonchappie)<

    I’m no economist, but I like reading about various economic theories and economic comment online. One criticism of Brown’s Keynsian style management that keeps cropping up comes back to exactly what you’ve said. I think there are some serious economic imbalances that have arisen over the Brown era, much of these a partial consequence of 9/11.

    For a start consumer debt is at ridiculous levels. The weak dollar (which the Chinese currency is pegged to) and strong pound means that UK manufacturers are having a tough time. We seem to be effectively borrowing lots of money to throw at third world economies. Then you’ve got the housing bubble which has made it impossible for most young people to buy.

    The trouble with Brown, I believe, is that he is one of these people that see saving and financial independence as a wrong. I think he likes the idea of everyone living from one month to the next, preferably dependent on some form of state handout such as his tax credits.

    The bit that gets me is the way he just keeps spending and spending. I know the Amercians are up to their eyeballs too, but we’re not America, they are a huge economy. He keeps getting the nation further and further in the red, allowing more and more cheap labour in to keep wages and inflation down, relying on the likes of Tesco and the rising pound against the dollar to keep inflation down.

    It all has to end in tears somewhere along the line. Maintaining his boast about the longest ever period of economic growth seems to trump every other consideration in his book, including getting us all, and the nation, in record levels of debt.

    Now we reach an interesting situation. Inflation is on the up, what will he do? Will the B of E keep raising rates even if it means pushing things over the edge? Perhaps he’ll just try to twist the arm of a few Supermarkets to reduce prices, import some more migrant workers, borrow and spend a load more cash on pointless initiatives to keep his boast up until he’s safely in number 10.

  23. According to some comment in the Telegraph today Spain is about to go belly-up, house price crash, recession etc. People were saying not long ago that demand from British people wanting investment/holiday/retirement homes would keep it going. One to watch?

  24. An excellent proposal but it needs tweaking slightly.

    We can kill two birds with one stone by rebuilding Hadrian’s Wall, throwing Scotland out of the union and sending all the French people in Brittany and Normandy to Scotland.

    Re-occupying parts of France, whilst being a stroke of genius, would be spoilt by letting French people continue living there.

  25. Boris is a genius: invade France! How perfect! Not only will you get cheap living space, but you’ll also provide employment for all those young people currently hanging around the square, looking furtive, spitting on the sidewalk and scratching themselves. Awesome!

    Will this be in the official Tory platform, or just for Henley? What kind of an army can Henley put up, anyway? I know Vicus won’t go.

  26. Boris, you are a dreamer. My partner is French and after reading your post she strongly objects to want would amount to a massive influx of “British immigrants” into France. They would no doubt be followed by most of the asian population of this country and France would no longer be a land of “sensational food, and sunshine and clean hospitals”.

    If she feels this way, what does the rest of the people of France think of your idea? No Boris, your party and the government would have to come up with a better idea than this, or the war between France and Britain would re-start!

    I can think of a better solution to the problem of over-population of this country that solve most of the current problems, but to state it here would bring the do-gooders and the PC brigade down on me.

  27. I have to say, I do not think forced (or strongly persuaded) emigration is the right way to go about it. Instead of creating a situation where people already in Britain are forced to become either expats or repatriates (is that the right word) should we not be looking at slowing the immigration of those not yet in the country. It does seem rather silly to welcome hundreds of thousands of people into Britain only to then say “oh, by the way we are too small to actually cope with this number of people so we are all buggering off the France, ta-tah”. It’s a bit like holding a huge everyone-invited party in a tiny house and then taking yourself off to a small private party in a mansion, once it gets rowdy and leaving everyone else to sort the problem out.

  28. The funniest thing about this is where people take it seriously. I mean, yes, Boris Johnson is a one man diplomatic incident but do you really think he’s serious?

    Boris for PM!

  29. Oh dear! Kieth’s French squeeze objects strongly to british immigrants pouring into her country, followed by the Asian population spoiling the land of sensational food, sunshine and clean hospitals.

    Is this the same country that built a massive holding centre on the English Channel so all the undesirables from everywhere in the world could sneak into our country, aided and abetted by the FRENCH.

  30. Yes, the dastardly French are at it again in Calais. Think of all the time we could save checking underneath lorries if we just built a motorway so they could hitchhike here. Young English commuters, irrate at the selfish planning policies of middle-aged Britain, could probably cover their petrol costs picking up yet another illegal every morning and letting them out of the boot somewhere in Hampshire.

  31. Boris here’s another idea for reducing house prices: abolish our crazy planning regulations, letting our population out of the cities we are penned into, to actually build on the 90% of our land that is empty apart from subsidised farming.

  32. < ‘Boris here’s another idea for reducing house prices’ (Marcin Tustin)<

    I’m not sure anyone Boris’s age really wants to reduce house prices. The only way to reduce house prices, other than creating an over-supply situation, would be direct action by those affected. If everyone who was ‘priced out’ stopped spending on non-essentials and started living in tents and caravans it would all come crashing back down very quickly. Other than this we just have to hope interest rates keep on rising.

    We could all become Gypsies now that councils are going to be forced to provide sites. That’d annoy them!

  33. An excellent idea – although it’s been suggested many times over the years – I’m just annoyed the French & the Brits have done nothing about this. If we can have long bridges over other parts of the world why can’t we have them connecting us to the french.

    Can you not propose this at the next PMQ’s?
    And maybe to the next French President?

    Regards,

    Alexander

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