'We didn't ask for Brexit': Conservative minister Chris Grayling told he is not welcome in Calais

'It is not fair at all, it is completely disrespectful,' says port's chair. 'I don't want to see him again' 

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 06 February 2019 12:03
Brexit: What will happen in 2019?

Chris Grayling is no longer welcome in Calais after behaving in a “completely disrespectful” manner over no-deal Brexit planning, the port’s chair has said.

The transport secretary was criticised by Jean-Marc Puissesseau for failing to warn him that the UK government was planning to divert sea traffic from the French port in the event of a disorderly Brexit.

Mr Grayling has already faced widespread mockery for awarding a lucrative contract to charter extra ferries to a firm without any ships, which hopes to open a new route from Ramsgate to Ostend in Belgium.

Mr Puissesseau told The Telegraph: “Mr Grayling came to us in November and asked us if we would be ready. We told him ‘yes’, though we did not know as much as we know today.

“He did not tell us that he wanted to reduce the activity (at Calais).

“It is not fair at all, it is completely disrespectful. I don’t want to see him again.”

He added: “We didn’t ask for Brexit, but we have spent the money for traffic to flow regularly.”

Mr Puissesseau has insisted a “traffic light” system set up by Calais officials would have been able to cope with the extra border checks required under a no deal.

He added that the cabinet minister was now so unpopular in Calais that he would have to pass through the traffic light system himself if he dared to show his face at the port again.

Mr Grayling, whose department faces major Brexit pressures, has come under fire over his no-deal plans after it emerged he had handed a £13.8m contract to Seaborne Freight, a firm that had never previously operated a ferry service.

The government awarded an £800,000 contract to a law firm for advice in case Eurotunnel takes legal action against the Department for Transport (DfT) for “distortionary and anti-competitive” behaviour.

Meanwhile, lorry trials near Dover to prepare for potential travel chaos were also derided when only 89 vehicles turned up out of the 150 invited.

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Labour MP Virendra Sharma, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign, said: “Surely this is peak Chris Grayling, only this time he’s gone international.

“All he needs to do now is release a statement blaming everyone else and his predictable path of chaos will be complete.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “While the transport secretary strongly supports work across government with the EU to ensure a deal is reached, he will also continue to lead the DfT to ensure all contingencies are prepared for concerning Brexit.”

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