UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has instructed Government officials to explore the possibility of a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland with him asking “where this money could come from,” it has been reported.
The Prime Minister has long been an advocate of the proposal and Channel 4 News has reported the Treasury and Department for Transport have been asked for advice on funding and on risks posed such as war time unexploded munitions.
In response the UK Government said it regularly commissioned feasibility studies.
A spokesman said: “During the leadership campaign candidates spoke about a number of issues which resulted in Number 10 commissions ahead of a new Prime Minister taking over.
“This PM has made no secret of his support for infrastructure projects that increase connectivity for people and particularly those that strengthen the Union.”
The Department of Transport has produced a “factual paper” on the subject and the DUP has included such a project in election manifestos.
Any such bridge project – if possible – would likely cost billions and take decades to complete. It’s been suggested the Northern Ireland administration would shoulder much of the cost.
In July leading Ulster Unionist economist Esmond Birnie poured cold water on the idea saying the cost would outweigh any economic benefit.
That came after a visit from Mr Johnson as he campaigned to replace Theresa May.
The future Tory leader described himself as “an enthusiast for that idea”.
But he said it “should be pursued by a dynamic NI government championed by local people with local consent and interest, backed by local business and mobilised by the politicians in NI”.
He added: “With infrastructure projects, finance is not the issue. The issue is political will, the issue is getting the business community to see this could be something that works for them, the issue is getting popular demand and popular consent for a great infrastructure project, and that is why you need Stormont.”
Alan Dunlop, an academic from Liverpool University suggested any bridge could be between Larne and the village of Portpatrick in south west Scotland, or between Torr Head on the Antrim Coast and the Mull of Kintyre.
The cost of the project has been estimated at £12bn and £20bn.
Earlier this year Mr Johnson said the idea was proposed by Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney when he was Foreign Secretary, a claims Mr Coveney rejected.
The proposal received a boost in March 2018 after a spokesman for the Scottish Government said it would “initiate discussions to explore improving connectivity” between the island of Ireland and Scotland, adding it was important “that all options are fully considered”
Opponents of the idea have derided the proposal as “fantasy”.