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The Transport Secretary has again faced cross-party calls for him to resign over his handling of ferry contracts intended to provide extra cross-channel capacity in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Chris Grayling has cancelled the contracts at a cost of more than £43 million. But he robustly defended the move when challenged in the Commons, as Simon Jones reports. And you can hear more from Today in Parliament at 11.30pm on BBC Radio 4 or on the BBC Sounds app.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has not ruled out that the government might need to negotiate another set of ferry contracts if a no deal Brexit situation arises in the autumn.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Grayling defended the current contracts, which are now being cancelled.
He said it was a small part the government’s “insurance package that the government put in place in case of a no deal”.
“People would expect a responsible govt to take out an insurance policy. We never wanted it but needed to be ready for it.”
But asked if the government might need to negotiate new contracts in October if a no deal Brexit situation was looking like an outcome, he said the government would need to “collectively” decide “what preparations will we need to put in place if find ourselves back in no deal situation, I hope we won’t be in that situation.”
Chris Grayling’s department has already been forced to pay £33m to Eurotunnel, to settle a case which challenged the procurement process for the ferry contracts.
The DfT is now also facing legal action from P&O Ferries, which claims its rival Eurotunnel was given a competitive advantage by the government.
The Department for Transport will terminate its remaining no-deal Brexit ferry contracts with operators Brittany Ferries and DFDS.
The cancellations could cost the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds, despite the fact that some of the £89m worth of procured capacity will be sold back to the market.
If extra cross-channel freight services are needed again in the run-up to the new Brexit deadline in October, the govt will likely have to negotiate a new set of contracts.
In February, the National Audit Office estimated that the cancellation costs of all three ferry contracts would be £56.6m.
The move comes just months after the DfT was forced to axe its £13.8m contract with athird company, Seaborne Freight, which the BBC found had never sailed a vessel.