Brexit: Labour calls for Chris Grayling to be sacked after axing of ferry contract to company with no ships
Transport secretary is 'heaping humiliation after humiliation on our country', says Andy McDonald
The under-fire transport secretary was widely criticised in December when it emerged he had given a £13.8m contract to Seaborne Freight, to provide extra ferries to ease pressure on important freight routes between Dover and Calais.
His department said it has now terminated the contract after another firm, Arklow Shipping, stepped away from the deal. The support from the Irish company had given the government confidence in the viability of the deal.
Labour demanded Mr Grayling quit or be sacked as he was “heaping humiliation after humiliation” on the country.
The row began when tender documents slipped out on Christmas Eve revealed Seaborne Freight was one of three companies awarded contracts totalling £108m, despite the firm having never run a Channel service.
It also emerged that the ferry company appeared to have copied its terms and conditions from a takeaway outlet.
Mr Grayling previously defended the decision, saying due diligence had been done and he would “make no apologies” for supporting a new British business.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “This cannot go without consequence. The Chris Grayling catalogue of calamities grows bigger by the day.
“This contract was never going to work but this secretary of state, true to form, blunders from one disaster to another.
“Whilst Theresa May needs the few friends she has right now, we cannot have this incompetent transport secretary carry on heaping humiliation after humiliation on our country. He has to go.”
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said: “With less than 50 days to put new arrangements in place there are serious questions to answer over how this multimillion pound contract was awarded in the first place.
“This saga has been beyond satire and it’s a worrying indictment on this government’s lack of preparation.”
However, leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg questioned whether Leo Varadkar’s Irish government was responsible for Arklow’s decision.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, which revealed the decision, he said: “One has to hope that the Irish government has not leant on or put any pressure on Arklow to persuade it to pull out.
“That would be a very unfriendly act of a neighbour to obstruct no-deal preparations and one has to hope very sincerely that this is genuinely a corporate decision.”
It comes after Mr Grayling, whose department is heavily affected by Brexit, said attacks on his competence were because he had become a “lightning rod for the anti-Brexit brigade”.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Following the decision of Seaborne Freight’s backer, Arklow Shipping, to step back from the deal, it became clear Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements with the government.
“We have therefore decided to terminate our agreement.
“The government is already in advanced talks with a number of companies to secure additional freight capacity – including through the port of Ramsgate – in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”