Another headache for Grayling as Eurotunnel take him to court

PUBLISHED: 14:23 11 February 2019 | UPDATED: 14:27 11 February 2019

Chris Grayling. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Chris Grayling. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Chris Grayling's decision to award contracts to three ferry companies, including one with no ships, under no-deal Brexit plans, is being challenged at the High Court.

Become a Supporter

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism

Eurotunnel, which operates the Channel Tunnel, says the contracts totalling £108 million were awarded through a “secretive and flawed procurement process”.

But the Department for Transport (DfT) argues that the “extreme urgency” of preparations for Britain’s departure from the EU on March 29 justified the process.

At a hearing in London, Eurotunnel’s barrister Daniel Beard QC said the procurement process for “additional capacity for transport of goods across the English Channel” had been “undertaken without any public notice being issued”.

Beard said Eurotunnel only found out “when contract notices were published three days after Christmas”, adding that it was “quite remarkable” his client had not been informed given its recent history in running cross-Channel services.

MORE: Channel Tunnel is a demonstration of what Europe can do

MORE: Support The New European by subscribing for £13 and get a FREE anti-Brexit mug

MORE: Corbyn’s team say he FORGOT to threaten a People’s Vote in letter to May

He submitted that Eurotunnel was “an operator who actually ran a ferry service three years ago”, and was therefore not “speculating” about its ability to run cross-Channel services but “has actually done it”.

He also said Eurotunnel had “no knowledge” of the “advanced talks with a number of companies to secure additional freight capacity”, which a spokesman for prime minister Theresa May said the government was already engaged in, despite the fact his client had taken legal action.

Beard told Justice Fraser that two of the companies awarded contracts, French firm Brittany Ferries and Danish group DFDS, are already “in the business” of offering cross-Channel services.

He said the third, Seaborne Freight, “apparently intended to do so” before the “collapse” of its contract with the DfT over the weekend.

Seaborne Freight’s £13.8m contract to run services between Ramsgate and Ostend in Belgium had attracted widespread criticism after it emerged the company had no ships and had never run a Channel service.

Ewan West, representing Grayling, confirmed to the court that Seaborne Freight’s contract had been terminated.

West added that the procurement process was only for “maritime freight” services and, therefore, Eurotunnel “could never have provided that capacity” and “could not have complied” with the terms of the contracts.

Justice Fraser ruled that an expedited four-day trial will begin on March 1 given the “obvious” urgency of the case and the “very important public interest matters” involved.

Become a Supporter

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

Become a supporter

You've seen the news, now discover the story

The New European is committed to providing in-depth analysis of the Brexit process, its implications and progress as well as celebrating European life.

Try 13 weeks for £13

Latest Articles

Most Read

latest issue

ANTI-BREXIT EVENTS

Find your nearest anti-Brexit campaigning activities, talks, protests and events nationwide.

Newsletter Sign Up

The New European weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy