The British government experienced another unpleasant jolt in its increasingly fraught Brexit preparations after a no-deal contingency emergency transport plan fell apart at the weekend.
British shipping company, Seaborne Freight, was contracted in December to transport emergency supplies from Ramsgate in the UK to Ostend, Belgium if Britain left the EU with no agreement in place. The company, however, withdrew from the €15.4 million contract when it became clear it could not supply the vessels required.
The company owns no ferry boats and the contract relied on Seaborn’s cooperation with Ireland’s Arklow Shipping. The latter and its 55 vessels withdrew its backing at the last minute and caused the deal to collapse
The UK’s Secretary for Transport Chris Grayling has come under fire for the deal, which he staunchly defends. Grayling has argued that although the contract was awarded fairly quickly, proper due diligence was conducted.
Despite Grayling’s claims, Seaborne Ferries has negative equity. Moreover, the Chief Executive of Seaborn, Ben Sharp, previously ran a business that was liquidated and owed money to the UK’s tax authorities.
Prior to the deal’s collapse, the local authorities in both Ramsgate and Ostend warned that the ports would not be ready by the March 29 Brexit date. Ramsgate has not had a regular ferry service since 2013 and needs to be dredged before services can start.
The fiasco finds the British government with 10% less ferry capacity with less than 50 days before the UK leaves the EU.