DfT’s Brexit settlement with Eurotunnel was ‘window-dressing’, say MPs

A SETTLEMENT of £33 million paid to Eurotunnel by the Department for Transport in connection with the failed contract to provide more ferries in the event of a no-deal Brexit ‘amount to little more than window-dressing’, according to a committee of MPs.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee says the DfT ‘undertook a rushed and risky procurement of additional ferry capacity’, which was followed by legal action from Eurotunnel because it had not been allowed to compete during the procurement process.

This led to the settlement of £33 million, but the ferry contracts were then cancelled, at a further cost of £51.4 million to the taxpayer.

The Committee’s report calls upon the DfT to ‘learn from this episode’ and launch fresh preparations for the current EU departure date of 31 October. It adds that it is ‘concerned that Departments appear to be waiting for clear instructions on what they should now plan for on Brexit.  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.’

Committee chair Meg Hillier said: ‘In just four months’ time 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.

“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.’

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: ‘This report exposes the government’s shambolic no-deal Brexit preparations. The transport secretary’s incompetence has already cost taxpayers tens of millions of pounds.

‘It is beyond belief that he should be given another opportunity to squander public cash and throw our transport networks into chaos. This country cannot afford Chris Grayling.’

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