Eurotunnel has announced this week that a concrete wall six metres high and 600 metres long is needed to prevent refugees and migrants from entering the Channel tunnel at Calais. It is now asking the British and French governments to pay €6m (£4.6m) for the work, as well as reimbursing €29m (£23m) in lost revenue and costs from 2015.
David Vaughan, commercial disputes partner at BLM, said: "Compensation claims brought by businesses against governments are very rare, but what makes it even rarer is the fact that it will be brought against two separate countries with different legal systems. It appears that Eurotunnel’s claims will be based on the French and UK’s Governments’ failure to maintain public order and security.
"This isn’t a first for Eurotunnel. Just over 10 years ago, it issued arbitration proceedings against the UK and French Governments for around £30m for financial losses incurred as a result of migrants’ activities which caused frequent delays and disruptions to Eurotunnel’s services on Christmas Eve in 2001. At the time, Eurotunnel complained that the presence of a hostel for the migrants opened by the French government – which came to be known as the Sangatte hostel – close to the mouth of the tunnel acted as a 'departure lounge'.
"It succeeded in that claim, partly because its regular complaints against the UK government to deal with the crisis were ignored. In the current migrant crisis, the UK and French governments have shown a willingness to cooperate and try and resolve the crisis by engaging in bilateral measures which have clearly had a positive impact. The question is whether that will provide the governments with a full defence to Eurotunnel’s claims. I would be surprised if it does not help France and UK in fending them."