Jude Kirton-Darling, Labour MEP for the North East of England, has joined a cross-party group of MEPs to formally raise concerns over the UK government’s decision to award three contracts for ferry services without running an open fair procurement process.
The contracts, for additional freight capacity on roll-on roll-off ferry services between England and France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany, are required “in order to minimise the potential disruption of trade across the Short Straits in the event that the UK leaves the EU without agreement”.
Cross-party British MEPs have co-signed a letter raising serious concerns to EU Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, over public money being wasted in order to provide “an illusion of action”, which in return will have a minimal effect on the ground.
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, one of the signatories of the letter, commented:
“The UK Department for Transport (DfT) should have followed procurement rules to provide a more transparent process and ensure greater scrutiny. The way this process has been carried out defeats the purpose of urgency as it makes these contracts open to challenge, thus resulting in a delay in the process and more costs to public funds. Over the Christmas period we were reduced to a national parody as it was revealed that one of the companies has no ferry fleet, nor experience in this kind of service provision.
“We are entering extremely uncertain times, for which the UK government is entirely to blame, so there is also concern that we risk seeing far greater sums committed to many more contracts of dubious legality and seemingly without due diligence. This is why it is vital that these contracts are properly scrutinised and that they don’t give UK Ministers a blank cheque with no checks and controls. The rules cannot be ignored under the pretext of a crisis they themselves created.”