UK Cancels Contracts for Brexit Backup Ferries
Embattled UK transport secretary Chris Grayling is canceling two ferry contracts that his ministry took out as an insurance policy in the event of a "hard Brexit."
If Britain had departed the European Union on March 29 without a customs agreement, as seemed likely earlier this year, new border control measures for cross-Channel trade would have been enacted. This would have slowed down port operations for the freight ferries that carry a large proportion of the UK's trade with continental Europe. Britain has since opted to ask Brussels for a delay for further negotiations, and it now has until October 31 to continue internal and external talks.
"People would expect a responsible government to take out an insurance policy, and that's what we've done, to make sure we can deal with all the challenges in a no-deal Brexit," said Grayling. "We never wanted it, we never worked for it, but we sure as certain needed to be ready for it."
Now that the insurance policy is not needed, the Department for Transport has canceled its two remaining contingency contracts with DFDS and Brittany Ferries. The termination payouts and fees came to a total of about $65 million.
Grayling's ministry paid another $1.3 million to a consultant to evaluate a contract with a third ferry operator. That contract has also been canceled, as the recently-founded operator had no ships. The Department of Transport has also paid out $43 million to Eurotunnel to settle a dispute over the fairness of the ferry contracts.
Prime Minister Theresa May's political opponents wasted no time in ridiculing the payments and calling for Grayling's removal. “Is Chris Grayling really worth so much to Theresa May that she’s happy to foot a [$108 million] bill racked up in just five months?" said Liberal Democrat spokesperson Jenny Randerson. "If there’s one thing that would unite us all in this Brexit chaos, it would be Mr Grayling being shown the door by the prime minister."