No-deal Brexit ferry service starts running even though the UK is still in the EU

Taxpayer-funded ferry services intended to provide extra capacity to cope with a no-deal Brexit began running on Friday, even though the UK is still in the EU.

The first sailing left Portsmouth for Le Havre at 8am on Friday under a £46.6m contract agreed by transport secretary Chris Grayling with Brittany Ferries. The service is part of £108m of additional freight that is supposed to prevent chaos at Britain’s ports and secure the supply of vital goods such as medicines and organs for transplants.

The government has no use for the space for at least another two weeks because Brexit has been delayed. But Brittany Ferries said it was too late to cancel the 20 extra crossings it will be running each week so space is being sold on the open market.

Brittany Ferries altered the travel plans of more than 20,000 passengers with existing bookings when it changed its schedules in January.

As part of its contingency planning the Department for Transport also awarded a £14m contract to Seaborne Freight and a £43m contract to Danish shipping firm DFDS. The department terminated its agreement with Seaborne when it became clear that it could not provide the service required. The company had no ships and no financial track record.

Chris Grayling has faced calls to resign over his handling of Brexit contingency planning (PA)

The government also had to shell out an additional £33m to settle legal action brought by Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel over the DfT’s “secretive and flawed” procurement process. A further £800,000 was spent on consultants who assessed the deals.

Brittany said it had incurred extra costs stemming from the contract, including more fuel and higher port fees.

“Fifty additional Brittany Ferries’ port staff have been hired on both sides of the Channel to deal with more frequent port calls,” a Brittany spokesperson said. 

“We have also spent the last three months training current onboard teams.

“The reality is that we were committed as soon as we signed the contract and preparations began to deliver the dedicated NHS shipment channel. There is no turning back at this late stage because all the preparatory work is now in place for 29 March.”

The Port of Ramsgate in Kent where Seaborne Freight was to have run its no-deal Brexit ferry service from (AFP/Getty)

Brittany said it was using its “best endeavours” to re-sell unused capacity to reduce costs to the taxpayer. 

A government spokeswoman said it was “only right that we push on with contingency measures”.

She added: “The government’s freight capacity contracts run for six months and are a vital part of wider contingency planning. They provide capacity for critical goods, including vital medicines, to continue to enter the UK in a no-deal scenario.

“Due to the agreed extension until 12 April, tickets for the first two weeks have been released for sale on the open market, which will minimise costs for the taxpayer.”

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

At The Independent, no one tells us what to write. That’s why, in an era of political lies and Brexit bias, more readers are turning to an independent source. Subscribe from just 15p a day for extra exclusives, events and ebooks – all with no ads.

Subscribe now


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.