A new contract to provide post-Brexit freight capacity has been handed to four ferry firms at a cost of £77.6 million.
The Department for Transport (DfT) announced that it has signed agreements with Brittany Ferries, DFDS, P&O Ferries and Stena Line.
This will ensure that vital medical supplies and other critical goods “continue to be smoothly delivered into the UK whatever the outcome of negotiations with the EU”, the DfT said.
The contracts will be in place for up to six months after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.
Then-transport secretary Chris Grayling faced calls to resign last year after handing a £14 million contract to Seaborne Freight to run post-Brexit freight services, despite the firm having no ships or trading history.
It has raised questions from pro-EU group Best for Britain. Naomi Smith said: “Given the government’s last ferry contracts ended in a court battle, many will rightly question whether this is the best way to ensure vital medical supplies and other critical goods can be smoothly delivered to the UK after the transition period ends.
“Supply chains are already experiencing unprecedented levels of disruption due to COVID and a no-deal Brexit could create huge new logistical problems for medicine suppliers and those relying on them, particularly given how late these arrangements have been made.
“With time and money now in very short supply, the government would do well to channel its energy into securing an agreement with the EU to prevent the possibility of shortages in the New Year.”
Grant Shapps, however, said: “As the transition period comes to an end, we are putting the necessary measures in place to safeguard the smooth and successful flow of freight.
“Securing these contracts ensures that irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations, life-saving medical supplies and other critical goods can continue to enter the UK from the moment we leave the EU.”