The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) policy recognises the strategic importance of developing a Europe-wide network of transport infrastructure for the Union’s society and economy. Deadlines have been enshrined in EU law for the core network (to be completed by 2030) and for the comprehensive network (by 2050).
Core network corridors, as set out in Annex I to Regulation (EU) No 1316/2013 (‘the Connecting Europe Facility Regulation’ or ‘CEF Regulation’) 1 , are an instrument to help coordinate implementation of the core network. The corridors are focused on modal integration, interoperability and coordinated development of infrastructure, in particular in cross-border sections and bottlenecks. Member States are required to participate in core network corridors in accordance with Article 44(1) of Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013 2 .
The United Kingdom is part of the North Sea – Mediterranean Core Network Corridor (the ‘NSM corridor’). The NSM corridor includes links between Belfast, Dublin and Cork on the island of Ireland and links in Great Britain from Glasgow and Edinburgh in the north to Folkestone and Dover in the south. Moreover, United Kingdom sections and nodes are included in the table of ‘pre-identified sections including projects’ for the NSM corridor.
On 29 March 2017, the United Kingdom submitted notification of its intention to withdraw from the Union pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This means that, unless a ratified withdrawal agreement 3 establishes another date, all Union primary and secondary law will cease to apply to the United Kingdom from 30 March 2019, (‘the withdrawal date’) 4 . The United Kingdom will then become a third country, a non-member of the Union.
If transitional arrangements are not established in a withdrawal agreement, the United Kingdom will no longer be a member of the NSM corridor from 30 March 2019. Its authorities and stakeholders will no longer participate in corridor-related meetings and activities.
Given the degree of integration between the Irish and United Kingdom economies, and Ireland’s location on the geographical edges of the Union, Ireland will be significantly affected by the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union. The United Kingdom is a vital transport link between Ireland and the continent. So there is a need to revise the route alignment of the NSM corridor in order to prevent the corridor from being cut into two distinct parts, with Ireland no longer linked to the continental EU.
In trade with continental Europe, Ireland relies largely upon short-sea container services and ferry services. Short-sea container services are important means of trade with third countries via hubs located in continental Europe, while ferry services are also used for trade with the United Kingdom.
A key means of meeting the challenges stemming from the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union will be to improve transport connections within the island of Ireland, and to meet growing trade requirements via Ireland’s ports.
Unlike many regions in the corridor, Ireland relies on feeder, rather than direct deep-sea container services, to connect its ports to global container networks, so improving inland and maritime (including ‘Motorways of the Sea’) access to core ports is also an important step towards achieving greater cohesion within the corridor.
The proposed regulation would adjust the NSM corridor’s route alignment by adding new maritime links between the Irish core ports of Dublin and Cork and the NSM corridor’s ports in Belgium (Zeebrugge, Antwerp) and the Netherlands (Rotterdam), It would take effect from the date when the CEF Regulation no longer applies to the United Kingdom, and therefore the United Kingdom no longer be part of the NSM corridor.