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Brexit disruption to the channel tunnel will hit EU businesses harder than British ones, Eurotunnel’s chief executive told European lawmakers on Wednesday.

Appearing in front of the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism, Jacques Gounon said the tunnel is a vital supply line for businesses across Europe shipping products to the UK.

“Any kind of disruption to fluid movement [of goods through the tunnel] is going to cause a blockage which will paralyse all of the supplier countries in Europe”, he said.

European exporters are more reliant on the transport link than their British counterparts. The channel tunnel — which carried €116bn of goods between the UK and the rest of the EU in 2016 — currently transports around 25 per cent of UK exports to the trading bloc, according to Mr Gounon, but 62 per cent of British imports from the EU pass through.

There are fears Eurotunnel trains could be hit by delays if there are new customs checks for cargo when it crosses a hard border between the UK and France. Of the 350 to 400 trains that pass through the tunnel each day, approximately 200 of these carry freight.

Uncertainty over licensing arrangements after Brexit and questions over whether it will still be possible to hire staff with specialist skills from across the EU are adding to suppliers’ concerns.

Mr Gounon said a breakdown in Brexit talks would be disastrous for the sector and for UK and EU businesses alike. “It’s a responsibility on all of us to bring pressure to bear on the negotiators”, he said. “You cannot allow yourself to destroy this wonderful success story”.

Earlier this week Eurotunnel’s parent group, of which Mr Gounon is chief executive, rebranded as Getlink. It said the move was a “new name for a new challenge” and “reflected the dynamism of connection and exchange”, marking “the Group’s passage into an exciting new era for mobility infrastructures”.

(Photo: Press Association)

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