Portsmouth ferry services ‘will be unaffected’ despite government terminating £100m Brexit contract

CONTRACTS laid out by the government to support ferry firms in the event of a no-deal Brexit are being cancelled.

Thursday, 2nd May 2019, 3:08 pm
Brittany Ferries' flagship, Pont-Aven, leaving Portsmouth. Picture: Tony Weaver

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is cancelling a set of contracts worth a total of more than £100m to three firms – Brittany Ferries, DFDS and Seaborne Freight – to run extra services from ports including Plymouth, Poole and Portsmouth to ease pressure on the main Dover-Calais route.

After the expected March 29 date of EU withdrawal was delayed, first to April 12 and now October 31, the new services were not required.

The money from these contracts had been used by Brittany Ferries to expand its timetable and hire new staff.

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But despite this contract now being terminated, the company is adamant that ‘nothing will change.’

A spokesman for Brittany Ferries said: ‘The additional services and changes we made for March 29 have been in place and running since that date.

‘There was a strong possibility that there might be a delay, so we were prepared for this clause to be activated.

‘We are still sailing the extra ships because we’re aren’t sacking the staff and not going back to the original schedule.’

The National Audit Office estimated in February that the maximum cost of compensation to ferry operators if contracts were terminated would be £56.6m, but a Whitehall source said the actual figure was expected to be around 10 per cent lower.

Seaborne's contract to provide sailings from Ramsgate was scrapped in February after an Irish company backing the deal pulled out. Seaborne had not previously run passenger ferries.

The announcement that the remaining contracts are now to be torn up is likely to fuel speculation that the government no longer believes a no-deal Brexit might happen.