EIGHT ferry, aviation and rail firms have been approved to bid for government contracts to import vital medicines into the UK after Brexit.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps described the group as 'high quality and experienced’ as he made the announcement.
His predecessor Chris Grayling faced calls to resign earlier this year after handing a £14m contract to Seaborne Freight to run freight services, despite having no ships or trading history.
The eight firms appointed to a freight procurement framework are Brittany Ferries and P&O Ferries – which operate from Portsmouth – DFDS, Irish Ferries, Seatruck and Stena, as well as aviation firm Air Charter Services and train operator Eurotunnel.
Their selection was based on a ‘proven ability to manage high quality projects and experience in freight operation’, according to the DfT.
The firms will be able to bid for freight service contracts which will be offered when required.
Brittany Ferries conducted rehearsal runs between England and France last week, with 15 more plannedbefore the Brexit deadline.
Christophe Mathieu, company chief executive, said: ‘We have been working hard with our port partners and through local resilience forum to ensure we are prepared for any eventuality post-Brexit.
‘Our intention is to keep traffic moving, to support cross-border trade and to minimise inconvenience to all passengers, be they freight driver or holiday maker.
‘In addition our ports are currently involved in a series of dry run rehearsals to prepare for the possible consequence of a no deal Brexit on both sides of the Channel.’
Patrice Narozny, director of port operations France, added: ‘Over the last 12 months Brittany Ferries has been actively preparing to deal with a no deal Brexit.
‘We’ve adapted our IT systems, allowing seamless communication with customs offices ashore.
‘We’ve also implemented a system allowing us to communicate vital information to lorry drivers via text message and onboard live information screens.’
The DfT said the system will run for four years from the planned Brexit date of October 31.
It claimed the initiative is a ‘much faster and more efficient procurement process’, adding that no taxpayers' money has been committed.