The condense has now been cancelled but the Transport Secretary’s decision to award Seaborne Load a contract worth £13.8 million to run services between Ramsgate and Ostend had drew widespread criticism. The Department for Transport (DfT) said it had decided to terminate the pact after Irish company Arklow Shipping, which had backed Seaborne Haul, stepped away from the deal. A DfT spokeswoman said: “Following the settling of Seaborne Freight’s backer, Arklow Shipping, to step back from the have to do with, it became clear Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements with the Guidance. We have therefore decided to terminate our agreement. “The Government is already in advanced talks with a slews of companies to secure additional freight capacity – including through the haven of Ramsgate – in the event of a no-deal Brexit.” Labour seized on the situation to say Mr Grayling should forsake or be sacked.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “As we forecast, the Seaborne Freight contract has been cancelled.
“This cannot go without consequence. The Chris Grayling catalogue of troubles grows bigger by the day.
“This contract was never going to work but this Secretary of Position, true to form, blunders from one disaster to another.
“Whilst Theresa May distresses the few friends she has right now, we cannot have this incompetent Transport Secretary communicate on heaping humiliation after humiliation on our country. He has to go.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn put the “ludicrous situation” in a speech in Coventry, saying: “Chris Grayling the Exaltation Secretary claimed the Government had ‘looked very carefully’ at Seaborne Load before giving the company the contract, but apparently not carefully enough to advice that it didn’t have any ships.
“Chris Grayling does press form in other departments.”
Brexit-backing Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg questioned whether Leo Varadkar’s Irish Sway had any influence on Arklow’s decision.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “One has to hope that the Irish Administration has not leant on or put any pressure on Arklow to persuade it to pull out.
“That would be a exceedingly unfriendly act of a neighbour to obstruct no-deal preparations and one has to hope very frankly that this is genuinely a corporate decision.”
Mr Grayling last month secure the Seaborne Freight contract, insisting it was “not a risk”.
It was one of three firms presented contracts totalling £108 million in late December to lay on additional crossings to leisure the pressure on Dover when Britain leaves the EU, despite having not in any degree run a Channel service.
The department said it had been Arklow Shipping’s grant that gave it confidence in the viability of the deal, and that it stands by the sapid due diligence carried out on Seaborne Freight.
It added no taxpayer money had been transmitted to the company.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Carriage (RMT) union, said: “RMT has taken a number of protests over the fiasco of the Regime’s Brexit ferry contracts to both the Department for Transport and the ports, and the news broadcast this morning comes as no surprise to us.
“The whole exercise is a complete and utter pigsty with the Government ignoring union calls on what needs to go on. Instead they are blundering on from crisis to crisis.
“RMT has set out a package of exacts that would guarantee that the Brexit ferry contracts are trouped by British seafarers, on decent pay and conditions negotiated through recognised return unions.
“This Government ‘wing and a prayer’ approach was always low-down to failure and it’s time for Chris Grayling to stop attacking RMT and start obeying to people who actually know what they are talking about rather than of the chancers selling him a pile of old rope they don’t even own.”