Eurotunnel withdraws legal claim against post-Brexit ferry contracts

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Eurotunnel has withdrawn its legal claim against the Department for Transport (DfT) over post-Brexit ferry contracts after reaching an agreement worth up to £33 million, the Government has said.

The firm, which operates the Channel Tunnel, was challenging the department’s decision to award contracts worth £108 million to three ferry companies at the High Court.

But on Friday the Government announced a deal with Eurotunnel to “deliver improvements which will ensure the Channel Tunnel is ready to continue to keep passengers and freight moving post-Brexit” such as better security and traffic flow at the border.

This will protect the “vital freight capacity” purchased from ferry operators to help ensure the continued supply of “crucial medicines, medical supplies and veterinary medicines in a no-deal scenario”, the Government statement said.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “The agreement with Eurotunnel secures the Government’s additional freight capacity, helping ensure that the NHS has essential medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“While it is disappointing that Eurotunnel chose to take legal action on contracts in place to ensure the smooth supply of vital medicines, I am pleased that this agreement will ensure the Channel Tunnel is ready for a post-Brexit world.”

A Eurotunnel spokesman said: “Eurotunnel has concluded an out-of-court agreement with the Secretary of State for Transport, that will ensure that the Channel Tunnel remains the preferred route for vital goods to travel between the EU and the UK.

“The agreement enables the development of infrastructure, security and border measures that will guarantee the flow of vehicles carrying urgent and vital goods and that will keep supply chains essential to both industry and consumers moving.”

Ferry contracts were awarded by the Government in December to DFDS, Brittany Ferries and Seaborne Freight to lay on additional crossings to ports other than Dover.

The deal with Seaborne – which was a start-up company with no ships – was terminated last month after its financial backer Arklow Shipping pulled out.

The Government statement said the “primary reason” for reaching an out-of-court agreement with Eurotunnel was to ensure “vital goods would not be put in jeopardy”.

It added: “A lengthy legal case and the uncertainty it creates is not in anyone’s interest.”

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