Government forced to pay out £33m to Eurotunnel over “secretive” post-Brexit ferry contracts

The government is set to pay Eurotunnel up to £33 million in order for it to drop its legal action brought over the “secretive” process used around post-Brexit ferry contracts.

The Channel Tunnel operator mounted a legal challenge after Chris Grayling’s department handed out lucrative contracts to increase cross-Channel capacity in the event of a no-deal Brexit to three firms – including one company that did not have any ships.

It claimed the £108 million contracts had been doled out in a “distortionary and anti-competitive” way.

The government announced earlier today it had reached an agreement with Eurotunnel, where the firm has committed to improving access, security and traffic flow in its UK terminal.

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “On the same day a National Audit Office report highlights that disastrous decisions by Chris Grayling at the Ministry of Justice have wasted nearly half a billion pounds of public money we also learn that the transport secretary’s misjudgement over the award of a ferry contract has left taxpayer’s liable for £33 million in compensation to Eurotunnel.

“This follows a damning Public Accounts Committee report on Wednesday on his mismanagement of the railways.

“His conduct as a minister is one of serial failure and routine incompetence. In any other sphere of life he would have been sacked long ago. I say yet again: this trail of destruction has gone on long enough. It’s time for Chris Grayling to go.”

Mr Grayling, the transport secretary, responded: “The agreement with Eurotunnel secures the government’s additional freight capacity, helping ensure that the NHS has essential medicines in the event of a no deal Brexit.

“While it is disappointing that Eurotunnel chose to take legal action on contracts in place to ensure the smooth supply of vital medicines, I am pleased that this agreement will ensure the Channel Tunnel is ready for a post-Brexit world.”

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