Labour calls for sacking of Grayling over 'calamitous' Brexit ferry deal

Elias Hubbard
February 9, 2019

Seaborne Freight was awarded a £13.8m contract in December even though it had never run a ferry service, nor had any ships.

Seaborne Freight won the £13.8m contract to run a freight service between Ramsgate and Ostend in the event of a no-deal Brexit, despite having no boats and having not run a ferry service before.

The Department for Transport said the contract had been revoked because Arklow Shipping, an Irish company that backed Seaborne Freight, had withdrawn its support.

The UK's Department of Transport has cancelled a contract with a company to provide extra ferries in the event that the UK leaves the European Union without a deal. We have therefore made a decision to terminate our agreement.

No taxpayer money has been transferred to Seaborne.

The DfT had been a accused of a lack of transparency after it announced on Christmas Eve it had awarded £103 million worth of contracts to Brittany Ferries, DFDS and Seaborne Freight to provide roll-on-roll-off ferries.

Labour seized on the situation to say Mr Grayling should quit or be sacked as shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: "As we predicted, the Seaborne Freight contract has been cancelled".

The party said in a tweet: "When is the PM going to take action and accept that Chris Grayling is not up to the job".

Mick Cash, the general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union - which has staged protests calling for the government to guarantee that the jobs on the new ferry services go to United Kingdom workers - accused the government of "blundering on from crisis to crisis".

The DfT said it had been Arklow Shipping's backing that gave it confidence in the viability of the deal, and that it stood by the due diligence carried out on Seaborne Freight.

"The whole exercise is a complete and utter shambles with the government ignoring union calls on what needs to happen".

"RMT has set out a package of demands that would guarantee that the Brexit ferry contracts are crewed by British seafarers, on decent pay and conditions negotiated through recognised trade unions".

Conservative county councillor for Ramsgate, Paul Messenger, said he was pleased the contract had been scrapped as the deal would have meant the town's historic docks would have suffered.

The source said that the government has "options contracts" with other operators who are already providing 90% of capacity for further capacity and they are also discussing further options with other providers.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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