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UK awards £13.8m ferry contract to company with no ships, in event of no-deal Brexit

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The UK's Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has defended awarding a contract for ferry services in the event of a no-deal Brexit to a company that has never run a Channel service.

Awarding a £13.8 million contract for no-deal Brexit ferry services to a company with no ships is an example of the Government "supporting new business", Chris Grayling has said.

The Transport Secretary defended the decision to do a deal with Seaborne Freight, despite it never having run a Channel service.

It was one of three firms awarded contracts totalling £108 million last week to lay on additional crossings to ease the pressure on Dover when Britain pulls out of the EU.

Mr Grayling told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Seaborne had been properly vetted before being chosen, after concerns were raised over its ability to fulfil the contract.

He said: "It's a new start-up business, Government is supporting new business and there is nothing wrong with that.

"We have looked very carefully at this business and have put in place a tight contract that makes sure they can deliver for us.

"This has been looked at very carefully by a team of civil servants who have done due diligence.

"We believe they are on track to run services from April, yes."

It comes as British manufacturers are stockpiling goods at near record rates in preparation for a calamitous no-deal Brexit.

The Markit/CIPS UK manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) showed a reading of 54.2 last month, higher than the 53.6 recorded in November, and a six-month high.

A figure above 50 indicates growth and economists were expecting a reading of 52.5.

"Manufacturers linked increases in both domestic and overseas demand to clients purchasing to build up safety stocks to mitigate potential Brexit disruption," IHS said.

Businesses importing goods from the EU will face severe disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which is looking ever more likely.

PA Media