Chris Grayling's no-deal Brexit ferry contracts cost the British taxpayer £85 million

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

Chris Grayling's 'rushed and risky' no-deal Brexit ferry contracts cost the British taxpayer £85 million, a watchdog has revealed.

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A report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also expressed concern that preparations for leaving the EU on October 31 risk running out of time.

The PAC, which scrutinises the value for money and effectiveness of public spending, said: "Prior to the previous planned departure date of March 29, 2019, we had raised concerns with a number of departments about the rate of progress with the preparations.

"With little lead time left, the Department for Transport undertook a rushed and risky procurement of additional ferry capacity which opened it to a court challenge from Eurotunnel, which had been excluded from the procurement, and which culminated in an out-of-court settlement costing £33 million.

"Coupled with the £51.4 million cost of cancelling the contracts with the ferry operators, the total cost of this procurement to the taxpayer stands at around £85 million."

As Grayling's department plan for more no-deal Brexit contracts in the autumn, the PAC said that it "must learn" from the episode.

The PAC stated: "We acknowledge that without political certainty it is challenging, but the Government needs to inject direction into departments' preparations for leaving the EU with a deal, without a deal, or any delay, as a matter of urgency."

PAC chairwoman Meg Hillier said: "In just four months' time, on October 31, the UK is expected to leave the EU yet momentum appears to have slowed in Whitehall.

"Departments must urgently step up their preparations and ensure that the country is ready.

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"The taxpayer has been landed with a £85 million bill with very little to show for it following the rushed procurement of ferry freight capacity.

"This £33 million Eurotunnel settlement comes on top of the money paid to cancel the ill-fated ferries deal.

"Public benefits from the settlement with Eurotunnel amount to little more than window dressing.

"The department needs to keep a close eye and ensure that Eurotunnel deliver what is promised."

With the government needing to make "imminent" decisions about ferry freight options, the PAC said: "The Department for Transport should set out within weeks what it has learnt from this procurement to ensure it does not expose the taxpayer to unnecessary risk and excessive cost in the future and particularly in its preparations for October 31."

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said the report exposed the government's "shambolic" no-deal preparations.

"It is beyond belief that he should be given another opportunity to squander public cash and throw our transport networks into chaos," he said.

"This country cannot afford Chris Grayling."

Best for Britain supporter Ed Davey MP said "the British taxpayer has been pick-pocketed by Brexit zealots."

He continued: "Money that should have gone to making sure we have enough beds in our NHS has instead been handed to Eurotunnel because of No Deal chaos.

"It's clear now that stopping Brexit is the only way of stopping the waste."

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