‘The British ferry contract calamity is the latest in the Brexit pantomime’ says Hazzard.
The UK government has awarded a £13.8 million contract to Seaborne Freight to handle freight between the ports of Ramsgate and Ostende in the eventuality of a hard Brexit.
But widespread concerns have been raised over the readiness of a British firm contracted by the government to run extra ferries in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Sinn Féin South Down MP Chris Hazzard has commented on the issue and said the British government’s Brexit agenda from the European Union should not affect the backstop.
He said: “This development must not be allowed to undermine the backstop.
“It is just chaotic and reckless of the UK government to have awarded a ferry contract to a company with no ships in preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit and no experience.”
Mr Hazzard added: “To date, the British government’s approach to Brexit has been filled with uncertainty.
“Confirmation that a £13.9m ferry contract has been awarded to a company with no ships is only the latest calamity in the Brexit pantomime.
“The company has never previously operated a ferry service – in effect the British Government have given a contract to a company that has never moved a single lorry in its lifetime.
“This chaotic, disjointed approach has been typical of the British government’s approach to Brexit ever since the referendum result in June 2016.
“Citizens in the North overwhelmingly rejected Brexit, and Ireland should not be collateral damage in this reckless agenda.
“A no-deal Brexit would drive our economy over a cliff-edge leaving many businesses unable to trade, job losses, possible recession, no access to the EU single market and a physical hard border being put in place in Ireland.
“Sinn Féin will continue to work with the Dublin government and the EU27 on the absolute need to protect the backstop as Ireland’s only insurance policy.”
However, the weeks ahead will be difficult for Theresa May’s Tory government which faces a threat of defeat in the Commons on a vote over Brexit legislation and the Withdrawal Bill.
The DUP, who have the PM over a barrel with their 1o Northern Ireland Westminster seats have said they would vote against the government if Northern Ireland is treated differently from the rest of UK maintaining their adherence to a position where they do not want any mandatory convergence with the EU Single market or customs union.
(note: the backstop is a safety net proposed by the government to maintain a border between the ROI and Northern Ireland as frictionless as possible regardless of whether there is a hard or soft Brexit.)