Chris Grayling defies calls to quit over Brexit ferry fiasco as he defends 'collective' decision

Posted On: 
5th March 2019

Chris Grayling has said he will not quit over a ferry contract blunder that forced the Government to shell out millions of pounds to Eurotunnel.

Chris Grayling has been under pressure over the multi-million pound payout to Eurotunnel
Credit: 
PA Images

The under-pressure Transport Secretary broke his silence following the decision last Friday to agree an out-of-court settlement worth £33m with the Channel Tunnel operator, who accused ministers of handing out “secretive” contracts.

It comes less than a day after he was ridiculed by MPs when Health Secretary Matt Hancock was sent to defend the move in the Commons in his place.

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When asked by reporters in Whitehall earlier today whether he would consider his frontbench position, Mr Grayling said: "I’ll carry on serving the Prime Minister as long as she wants me to."

The blunder came just two months after the Department for Transport was forced to cancel its contract with Seaborne Freight after it emerged the firm had no experience and owned no ships.

The company was one of three ferry companies handed contracts worth around £108m in a bid to expand lorry freight capacity in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Grayling defended Friday’s decision, which he said was taken by the Department of Health and backed by the Cabinet as a whole to protect drug supplies should Britain crash out of the EU without a deal.

"This was a sensible part of contingency planning to make sure that we had all the resource we needed, all the drugs we needed, all the medical supplies we needed for the NHS," he added.

"That’s why the Cabinet took the decision it did and that’s why collectively last week we decided however regrettable the Eurotunnel court action was that we had to take a decision to protect the interests of the country in the circumstance of a no-deal Brexit and that’s the right thing to do."

The Transport Secretary was branded an “international embarrassment” yesterday by his opposite number, Andy McDonald, who accused him of being “ordered into hiding”.

"It’s not enough for the Prime Minister just to bench him," he said.

"Grayling has wasted billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and unleashed chaos on every department that’s had the misfortune of having him.  

"If Theresa May had any authority left she’d sack him."