No-deal ferry firm has no ships

He’s ac­cused of ar­ro­gance as he tells UK: Get your act to­gether

Daily Mail - - News - By Claire El­li­cott Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

A SHIP­PING com­pany awarded a multi-mil­lion pound con­tract to move goods in the event of a no-deal Brexit has no ships, it emerged yes­ter­day.

Seaborne Freight was given a £13.8mil­lion con­tract by the Govern­ment to run ex­tra fer­ries if Bri­tain leaves the EU with­out a deal.

But con­cerns have been raised about the pro­posed op­er­a­tion be­tween Rams­gate in Kent and Os­tend in Bel­gium as the firm has no ships, has never run a ferry ser­vice and has no trad­ing li­cence.

Con­ser­va­tive Kent county coun­cil­lor Paul Mes­sen­ger said it was im­pos­si­ble for the Govern­ment to have car­ried out suf­fi­cient checks on the firm.

‘Why choose a com­pany that never moved a sin­gle truck in their en­tire his­tory and give them £14mil­lion? I don’t un­der­stand the logic of that,’ he said.

Mr Mes­sen­ger said he did not be­lieve that it was pos­si­ble to set up a new ferry ser­vice by March 29, the date when Bri­tain is due to leave the EU.

The De­part­ment for Trans­port said it awarded the con­tract knowing ‘that Seaborne is a new ship­ping provider’.

The com­pany in­sisted it would launch its freight ser­vice be­fore March 29. Chief ex­ec­u­tive Ben Sharp said the firm had been founded by ‘sea­soned ship­ping vet­er­ans’.

The UK will spend more than £100mil­lion char­ter­ing ex­tra fer­ries to ease ‘se­vere con­ges­tion’ at Dover, in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

JEAN-CLAUDE Juncker was hit by a fu­ri­ous back­lash yes­ter­day af­ter he claimed most MPs ‘deeply dis­trust’ Theresa May over Brexit.

The EU Com­mis­sion chief told the UK to ‘get your act to­gether’, and in­sisted it is not for Brus­sels to find a way through the im­passe over the Ir­ish ‘back­stop’.

Asked yes­ter­day what the EU’s fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with Bri­tain should be, he said: ‘It is not us who are leav­ing the UK – it is the UK that is leav­ing the EU. I find it en­tirely un­rea­son­able for parts of the Bri­tish pub­lic to be­lieve that it is for the EU alone to pro­pose a so­lu­tion for all fu­ture Bri­tish prob­lems.

‘My ap­peal is this: get your act to­gether and then tell us what it is you want. Our pro­posed so­lu­tions have been on the ta­ble for months.’

he said if MPs rat­i­fied the deal next month, talks on the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship could be­gin im­me­di­ately and would not have to wait un­til af­ter March 29, when the UK leaves the EU.

Tak­ing aim at MPs who claim Brus­sels is try­ing to keep Bri­tain in the bloc, he said: ‘I have the im­pres­sion that the ma­jor­ity of Bri­tish MPs deeply dis­trust both the EU and Mrs May. It is be­ing in­sin­u­ated that our aim is to keep the United King­dom in the EU by all pos­si­ble means. That is not our in­ten­tion. All we want is clar­ity about our fu­ture re­la­tions. And we re­spect the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum.’

The in­ter­ven­tion en­raged MPs, with for­mer Tory leader Iain dun­can Smith warn­ing that Mr Juncker had ‘picked on the wrong na­tion’. he added: ‘Juncker has de­scended yet again into shal­low ar­ro­gance in lec­tur­ing the UK. They’re try­ing to say it’s the UK’s fault, that they don’t know what we want, but of course they know – this is just a stupid game.’

Fel­low Tory MP An­drew Rosin­dell said: ‘Mr Juncker has se­verely un­der­es­ti­mated the Bri­tish spirit if he thinks the peo­ple of this na­tion will ca­pit­u­late to his threats.’

Mr Juncker’s in­ter­ven­tion fol­lows a heated sum­mit ear­lier this month, which saw the Prime Min­is­ter con­front him and an­grily ac­cuse him of call­ing her ‘neb­u­lous’. Mrs May is still hop­ing Brus­sels will of­fer con­ces­sions on the Ir­ish back­stop to help it pass a Com­mons vote. MPs want ‘legally bind­ing’ re­as­sur­ances that the back­stop – de­signed to pre­vent a hard bor­der emerg­ing in Ire­land – will be time lim­ited.

Cabi­net min­is­ter liam Fox threw his weight be­hind Mrs May’s deal, telling The Sunday Times that if MPs failed to back it in next month’s vote ‘I’m not sure I would give it much more than 50-50’ for Bri­tain to leave the EU.

A No 10 spokesman said: ‘dis­cus­sions with EU part­ners have shown that fur­ther clar­i­fi­ca­tion on the back­stop is pos­si­ble and these dis­cus­sions are con­tin­u­ing to se­cure the le­gal and po­lit­i­cal as­sur­ances Par­lia­ment need.’

Heated: Mrs May con­fronts Mr Juncker ear­lier this month

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