Government spends £100m on extra ferry routes in case of 'no-deal' Brexit

A government department has spent more than £100m on ferries to ease potential problems at Dover in the event of a "no-deal" Brexit.

Documents from the Department for Transport (DfT) show £107.7m agreements with Brittany Ferries, DFDS (Copenhagen: DFDS.CO - news) and Seaborne which it hopes will ease pressure on the Port of Dover.

The DfT says increased border checks in UK ports in the event of a no-deal Brexit could "cause delivery of critical goods to be delayed".

The Liberal Democrats called the move "complete madness".

The party said it showed public money was being spent recklessly in a last-minute attempt to prepare for a no-deal outcome with the European Union.

DfT did not put the contracts out to tender, saying it was a "situation of extreme urgency", brought about by "unforeseeable events".

DFDS, a Danish firm, was awarded a contract of £47.3m, while Seaborne Freight, a UK company, got a £13.8m deal.

Brittany Ferries, a French company, was awarded a £46.6m contract, with the company agreeing to add 19 return sailings to three routes between the UK and France.

Christophe Mathieu, Brittany Ferries chief executive, said: "Our priority is to prepare for a no-deal Brexit and to create additional capacity.

"By increasing the number of rotations on routes like Le Havre-Portsmouth we will be able to meet the Department for Transport's Brexit requirement.

"We will also work hard to minimise impact on existing Brittany Ferries freight customers and passengers, although there may be some changes to some sailing times, for which we apologise in advance."

A spokesman for the DfT said: "This significant extra capacity is a small but important element of the Department for Transport's no-deal Brexit planning.

"While remaining committed to working to ensure a deal is reached successfully, the department is helping ensure the rest of government are fully prepared for a range of scenarios, including a particular focus on a potential no deal and to mitigate the impact of any Brexit outcome on all transport modes."

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "It is complete madness to see the government recklessly handing over £100m on preparing British ports for a no-deal scenario.

"The government has the power to stop no deal at any time but instead is spending millions on last-minute contracts."

About 16,000 trucks pass between Dover and Calais everyday, with everything from food to medicine to factory equipment on board.

It comes less than two weeks after Matt Hancock was accused of bragging about buying fridges to ensure medicines could be stockpiled to cope with a no-deal Brexit.

The government announced in December that all departments should be planning for a no-deal scenario and that it was putting 3,500 armed forces personnel on standby in the event of disruption.