EU demands to cut Eurostar costs welcomed

South East Conservative Euro-MP Richard Ashworth has welcomed a demand by the EU to cut the costs of using the Channel Tunnel, which add over £35 to the cost of a return ticket.

The MEP who has led many campaigns to open up the Channel Tunnel to more services and increased competition, said the demand would not only see cross-channel travel prices cut, but it would also encourage other train operators to begin using the tunnel.

The tunnel operator Eurotunnel currently charges a reservation fee of €4,320 (£3,700) for each train, plus €16.60 (£14) per passenger. On a full train, the cost would be over £35 per traveller for a return journey. The commission has said that this cost is twice what it should be, and it is calling on the UK and France to reduce the feed or face legal proceedings.

Currently, the tunnel is only used to 43 percent of its capacity. Mr Ashworth has long led a campaign to open up the tunnel and the High Speed line to other services, so that passengers have more choice over destinations and between train operators. Already, German ICE trains have been granted approval to use the tunnel with the possibility of offering services to Brussels and Frankfurt.

Mr Ashworth, who leads the Conservatives in the European Parliament, said:

“We are still not making full use of the Channel Tunnel and the High Speed Line for freight and passenger services, and excessively high tunnel costs are part of the problem.

“We can have high speed trains going from Ashford and Ebbsfleet to all over northern and southern Europe if only we open up the lines to greater competition.

“The UK and France should cut the costs of using the tunnel. Not only will this reduce Eurostar costs immediately, but it will make operating through the tunnel more attractive for other operators.

 

“Eurostar must make sure that any price cuts are passed on to consumers in cheaper fares. Breaking the Eurostar monopoly on high speed travel to the continent will be better for travellers and for the south east England economy.

 

“With people watching their budgets and wanting to take holidays closer to home without braving the airports, this warning is a welcome boost in the campaign to make cross-channel travel cheaper and easier.”

New deal on fisheries ensures better future for fishing communities

Constituents in the South-East especially those whose livelihoods depends on the fishing industry will be delighted to learn of our recent success in negotiating a deal on the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which will ensure a better future for our fishing communities.

Reform has been long overdue; and, in the early hours of the morning last week, the Conservatives led the European Parliament to agree to break the catastrophic cycle of micro-management from Brussels which has bedevilled our fisheries sector for decades.

The old quota system forced fishermen to discard significant amounts of edible fish annually back into the sea. Under this new agreement dumping and discards will be banned from 1 January 2015, instead a sensible, rational approach is to be adopted, encouraging the avoidance of by-catch and giving alternative options for that which cannot be avoided.

The new agreement also ensures long-term sustainability of our fish stocks by using ‘maximum sustainable yields’. This is the surest way of rebuilding fish stocks in British waters.

Finally, management of British fishing will be brought home. The day-to-day management of fisheries will be devolved back to the Member States, who can in turn devolve responsibility to Producer Organisations so that the local fishermen and stakeholders are directly involved.

This means power moving back to the UK to manage our waters and overall a better deal for British fisherman.

 

 

We will not be coerced into providing state benefits to EU immigrants

Richard Ashworth Conservative MEP for the South-East and leader of the British Conservative delegation in the European Parliament has warned the European Union against taking the UK Government to court over the issue of access to state benefits for EU citizens in the UK.

 “The EU has got it wrong. Britain can and will decide for herself who is eligible for British state benefits. The current residency test ensures that only those who are deserving of the support are entitled to benefits. Our rules are entirely reasonable and appropriate for the UK – we do not want to incentivise EU migrants who want to come to the UK but not to work”.

“We are going to fight this; we believe that we are on the right side of EU law. However, if the EU decides that we are not, then it is the EU law which needs to change, not us. We will not back down on this”.

At a time when Britain is in the throes of a crucial debate over its relationship with Europe, this is an example of where the EU has got it wrong and needs to listen to the UK and adapt.

“From 2014 a greater number of EU citizens will be entitled to exercise “freedom of movement”, now is a sensible time for the government to seriously consider better control of the use and access to public services.”