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Fri, 23 October 2020

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MPs call on Chris Grayling to resign over botched Brexit ferry contract

MPs call on Chris Grayling to resign over botched Brexit ferry contract
3 min read

Chris Grayling is facing cross-party calls to resign as Transport Secretary following the collapse of a controversial contract given to a ferry company without any ferries.

Ministers made the decision to axe the £13.8m contract given to Seaborne Freight after its backer, Arklow Shipping, withdrew its support.

Officials insisted that no taxpayers' money was given to Seaborne before the contract was scrapped.

Mr Grayling defended awarding the contract that would see the firm provide additional crossings between Ramsgate in Kent and the Belgian port of Ostend to ease the pressure on Dover if there is a no-deal Brexit.

In early January he insisted ministers had done due diligence on the company, however was embarrassed days later when it emerged that the terms and conditions on Seaborne Freight's website appeared to have been copied from an online takeaway website.

But Tory backbencher and leading Remainer Anna Soubry told the Observer that her party colleague “should be quietly considering his position”.

“Chris Grayling holds a critical position in government, trying to mitigate what would be a very serious crisis for the country if we leave the European Union without a deal,” she said.

“He has no grip on the very serious nature of his job. The prime minister should also be considering whether there is not someone else who could do the job better.”

Another senior Tory MP told the paper that Mr Grayling was a “walking disaster zone” and that such stories suggest the Government has “not got the people in place who are capable of responding” to a no-deal Brexit.

Another said: “Grayling never has a grip on the detail, as the Seaborne mess shows. His Heathrow proposal will be just the same but way more costly. The PM just turns a blind eye, for some reason.”

Meanwhile Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald said: “As we predicted, the Seaborne Freight contract has been cancelled. 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.

“While Theresa May needs the few friends she has right now, we cannot have this incompetent transport secretary heaping humiliation after humiliation on our country. He has to go.”

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable also joined those urging the embattled Transport Secretary to step down, saying d “failing Grayling has made too many crass mistakes”.

“He has already lost the confidence of the civil service as they now require a ministerial directive for the government to spend money on ferries,” he said.

In a statement issued on Saturday morning, following the decision to axe the contract, a spokesperson for the Department for Transport 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.”

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