Boris Johnson urged to scrap plans for a bridge to France and spend the money on the NHS

Boris Johnson urged to scrap plans for a bridge to France and spend the money on the NHS

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been urged to abandon plans to build a bridge to France – and to spend the money on the NHS instead.

He was challenged by Birmingham MP Khalid Mahmood (Lab Perry Barr), who told the House of Commons that the bridge could cost £120 billion.

But Mr Johnson defended his plan to build a bridge across the Channel, saying it was needed because the Channel Tunnel would be full within seven years.

The Foreign Secretary described his proposed bridge as “a great, swollen, throbbing umbilicus of trade”, and said it would be paid for by the private sector rather than by taxpayers.

Mr Johnson insisted that proposals for a bridge had been welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The Brexit -supporting politician famously travelled during the 2016 referendum campaign on a bus with the slogan: “We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead”.



Boris Johnson and former Birmingham MP Gisela Stuart during the EU referendum campaign

And referring to this, Mr Mahmood said: “He wants ​to build bridges, but at the same time he is pushing for a hard Brexit, pushing us further away from the European Union.

“Does he think that that money could instead be better spent over the next six and a half years by giving the national health service £350 million a week? Which would he prefer?”

Mr Johnson said that the original plan had been for the Channel Tunnel to entirely privately financed, adding: “And there is no reason why we should not have the same ambition this time.”

Defending plans for a bridge to France, he said: “Most people appreciate that the existing channel tunnel is likely, at the current rate, to be full within the next seven years, which is a very short time in the lifetime of a great infrastructure project.



Khalid Mahmood
Khalid Mahmood

“It is a curiosity that two of the most powerful economies in the world, separated by ​barely 21 miles of water, are connected by only one railway line.

“I think that is a matter for legitimate reflection by our two countries on the way forward.”

He said the French government had agreed that a “comité des sages”, a committee of wise people, should be set up to look at ways of increasing co-operation between the two countries, and this would look at how to build a bridge.

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