P&O Ferries sues government over £33m Eurotunnel settlement after no-deal Brexit ferries fiasco
Ferry operator P&O is suing the UK government following the heavily-criticised decision to hand a no-deal Brexit ferries contract to a firm with no boats.
Read more: Government ferry contracts to cost millions more if Brexit is delayed
The Department for Transport has already been forced to pay Eurotunnel £33m in a settlement after its decision to award Seaborne Freight a £13.8m deal.
Now P&O is taking legal action against the government over that settlement, which the government stressed at the time would go towards upgrading Eurotunnel’s facilities.
“We have repeatedly made clear during decades of providing vital transport services between Britain and the continent that we are happy to compete with other providers on a level playing field,” a P&O spokesman said.
Seaborne was to provide extra capacity across the Channel to France in case a no-deal Brexit left UK ports suffering heavy congestion.
However, the DfT cancelled the contract in February after the Irish firm backing Seaborne backed out.
It followed claims the contract amounted to illegal state aid, with Eurotunnel complaining it was not considered amid a “secretive” tender process.
A DfT spokeswoman said: “We are confident we acted appropriately in reaching the agreement with Eurotunnel.”
But P&O's spokesperson added: “We do not believe that the payment of £33m of public money to Eurotunnel to settle its legal challenge to these plans is fair or reasonable.
“It is explicitly designed to be invested in the tunnel's infrastructure and if left unchallenged would put our services at a competitive disadvantage.”
Fresh calls for transport minister Chris Grayling to resign came in the wake of the Eurotunnel settlement, with shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald accusing him of wasting !obscene” amounts of taxpayers’ money.
“The record of this transport secretary is that of a departmental wrecking ball,” McDonald added.
Read more: ‘Wrecking ball’: Grayling refuses to resign over £33m Eurotunnel fiasco
However, Grayling refused to resign despite appearing at the bottom of Tory minister rankings with an approval rating of minus 60.1.