U.K. scraps Brexit ferry deal with firm that has no ships
LONDON – The British government has canceled a contract to ship goods to the country after Brexit with a company that turned out to have no boats and no experience running a ferry service.
Authorities had been criticized for the £13.8 million ($18 million) deal with Seaborne Freight, part of plans to keep trade flowing if Britain leaves the European Union without a divorce deal.
The Department for Transport said Saturday that it had ended the contract because an Irish firm that was backing Seaborne Freight, Arklow Shipping, had withdrawn its support.
The department said no taxpayer money had been transferred to the company. It said the government was “in advanced talks with a number of companies to secure additional freight capacity” if there is a no-deal Brexit.
Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29 but has not yet agreed a divorce deal outlining departure rules and future trade terms. A withdrawal agreement between the U.K. and the EU was rejected last month by Britain’s Parliament, and EU officials are resisting British attempts to renegotiate it.
U.K. businesses fear a no-deal Brexit will cause gridlock at ports by ripping up the trade rulebook and imposing tariffs, customs checks and other barriers between the U.K. and the EU, its biggest trading partner.
Seaborne had been contracted to provide services between Ramsgate in southeast England and the Belgian port of Ostend to ease pressure on the busiest cross-Channel route between Dover, England, and Calais, France.
Opposition Labour Party transport spokesman Andy McDonald accused Transport Secretary Chris Grayling of “heaping humiliation after humiliation on our country” and said he should resign.