The UK government plans to pay a law firm over US$1 million for advice in the event Eurotunnel sues Whitehall over the impact of Brexit on its business.
When the contract was offered up for tender, its description stated Getlink — the new name of Eurotunnel — was "highly likely" to pursue litigation, potentially forcing London to pay out "significant damages", as the firm had "expressed concern their business may be disturbed or interfered with…this will in turn hit their profits".
Looks like UK Govt are seeking legal advice on likelihood of their being sued over #Seabornefreight #ferrygate contract, as I predicted. Pity they weren’t more frank about this when I questioned them in @HouseofCommons #BrexitChaos https://t.co/XtuAB79qlU— Joanna Cherry QC MP (@joannaccherry) February 5, 2019
The contract was won by Slaughter & May, although the description has now been changed, to merely say the firm will provide "advice and assistance to the Department for Transport on the Cross Channel Rail Services".
In December 2018, it was revealed the government awarded contracts worth almost US$140 million to three companies to provide extra ferry services in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The news prompted Eurotunnel to write to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to complain the company hadn't been considered when the contracts were awarded, and the awarding of the contracts may've been illegal, due to a lack of tendering process.
Eurotunnel Brexit— Jan Harvey #FBPE (@TheJanHarvey) February 5, 2019
Well, thank goodness we had all those years of Austerity to save up for paying the DUP, fake ferry companies, pretend lorry parks and Eurotunnel legal action etc who knows where we’d have got the money from otherwise?#magicmoneytree #brexit
Among the trio benefitting from the fund is Seaborne Freight, a company that doesn't own any ships, hasn't previously operated a ferry service of any kind, and isn't planning to do so until the UK's scheduled 19 March 2019 European Union departure date.
At the time, a Department for Transport spokesperson said the contract was "awarded in the full knowledge Seaborne Freight is a new shipping provider, and that the extra capacity and vessels would be provided as part of its first services".
"As with all contracts, we carefully vetted the company's commercial, technical and financial position in detail before making the award," they added.