Ahead of the 25th anniversary of the May 6, 1994 opening of the Channel Tunnel, retired mining worker Graham Fagg shared his memories of the moment he broke through to meet a French colleague tunnelling from the other side.
By a twist of fate, Fagg voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum yet he sees no contradiction with his act of unification.
“I worked on the Channel Tunnel and done the breakthrough, but I actually voted for Brexit. But I don’t see that it’s incompatible,” the 70-year-old told AFP news agency.
The retiree made history on December 1, 1990, when he and his French counterpart Philippe Cozette, made the junction between their respective parts of the tunnel some 100 metres below sea level.
Less than four years later, on May 6, 1994, Queen Elizabeth II and French president Francois Mitterrand cut the ribbon on the new rail link.
Since then the railway line connecting the south-east of the United Kingdom to the north of France has been used by almost 430 million passengers and 86 million vehicles.
For many Britons, the tunnel has come to symbolise the country’s integration with the continent as a member of the European Union.
‘Brexit won’t drive us apart’
Fagg said he supported joining the European Economic Community — the forerunner to the EU — in a 1975 referendum but had not envisaged it would become a political union.
“We voted for a trade deal,” he explained. “I can’t remember anybody ever saying to me, ‘we’re going to turn it into a federal Europe. We’re going to set all the rules and you’ve got to obey them’.”
A lifelong resident of the southeast English port town Dover, where 62% of people backed Brexit in the 2016 referendum, Fagg insisted he wants close future ties with Europe.