POLITICS
09/01/2019 12:21 GMT | Updated 09/01/2019 16:41 GMT

Port Of Calais Chief Brands Chris Grayling 'Disrespectful' Over Brexit Ferries Debacle

Jean-Marc Puissesseau said he was "shocked" the transport secretary handed companies £100m of new contracts.

The chief of the Port of Calais has branded Chris Grayling “disrespectful” for handing ferry companies £100m in a bid to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. 

Jean-Marc Puissesseau said he was “shocked” to learn the transport secretary had awarded three firms – one of which was Seaborne Freight, which does not have a single operational ferry – contracts for new routes to ease pressure should Britain crash out of the EU.

But Puissesseau told the BBC on Wednesday morning the French port “will be ready” and no extra checks were planned that would risk causing traffic build-ups. 

“It’s wrong, it’s not true that there will not be more delay,” he said. 

He said: “We have heard so many things about the hard Brexit, we [have been] preparing [for] no-deal since one year in Calais. 

“For the 29th of March, we will be ready.” 

He added: “The only thing we will be asking of the driver that they have their customs declarations, but we will not stop and ask more than we are doing today.” 

Puissesseau had made an appeal to Theresa May in March for help avoiding long tailbacks. 

He says since then, however, that Calais has prepared for all Brexit outcomes and Grayling handing companies the £100m was “disrespectful”. 

“We have been preparing a special packing area for packing and checking points to help the driver do the job so that will in no way way be slowing down the traffic,” he added.  

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Jean-Marc Puissesseau has 

“So that is why I am, if you will allow me to say, very shocked. I consider it disrespectful to Dover and to Calais what has been decided by Mr Grayling.”

Seaborne Freight was handed a contract worth almost £14m to set up a route from Ramsgate, Kent, to Ostend in Belgium to boost capacity if there is no deal.

Meanwhile the M20 motorway and disused Manston airfield are being lined up as lorry parks if extra checks spark delays at the Port of Dover. 

Puissesseau went on: “If Great Britain has too much money they should give it to us to help us to be more effective towards the migrants.” 

He concluded: “In a no-deal, you say, the sensible people that we have met from England in the last year said there will be no control in Dover neither in import or export so we will not control, only asking already for the custom declaration – that is all. 

“In the import, which you don’t control, there will not be a queue because they will not be controlled. I don’t understand.” 

Meanwhile, the Department for Transport defended handing Seaborne the £14m contract for new services. 

A spokesman said: “We have confidence in the deliverability of the service. And, as the transport secretary made clear in the Commons, no money will be paid to any of these operators unless and until they are actually operating ferries on the routes we have contracted.”