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Unite union call on Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to resign after 'ignoring' Eurotunnel's Brexit plans

By Molly Mileham-Chappell

A trade union is calling for the Transport Secretary to resign amid accusations Eurotunnel was ignored in no-deal Brexit planning.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, want Chris Grayling to hand in his notice after stating he and his department appeared to ignore the Folkestone company from contingency plans if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.

The union, which represents over 350 members at Eurotunnel, say staff are fearing for their jobs after the Channel Tunnel operator was overlooked when the government awarded contracts to move freight away from the Port of Dover in the event of disruption after Britain leaves the EU.

A Eurotunnel train
A Eurotunnel train

It comes after the government awarded contracts worth £103 million to ferry companies Brittany Ferries, DFDS and Seaborne Freight to run additional services in the event of a no-deal Brexit, despite Seaborne Freight having no ships or a usable harbour at Ramsgate.

The union say the decision to ignore Eurotunnel, which moves millions of tonnes of freight every year, has left workers worried that the government contracts will be used to entice existing customers away from Eurotunnel.

In a letter, acquired by the Financial Times, it emerged that Eurotunnel’s chief executive Jacques Gounon wrote to Mr Grayling accusing him of engaging in anti-competitive practices, confirming that Eurotunnel could undertake the work and threatening legal action, if similar contracts are not awarded.

Unite's representatives at Eurotunnel have also written to Mr Grayling demanding that the contracts decision is revised so their company is no longer excluded.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling

Unite national officer for the rail industry Harish Patel said: "How on earth could Chris Grayling and the entire Department of Transport simply ignore Eurotunnel when planning for a ‘no deal’ Brexit?

"These revelations reveal new levels of incompetency at the department and demonstrate that it is simply incapable of undertaking the most basic planning exercise.

"This latest fiasco underlines that the entire transport industry has lost all confidence in Chris Grayling and he should resign immediately.

"This must be the first time in history that the awarding of government contracts could lead to the loss of jobs rather than their creation.

"The Department for Transport must revisit these contracts and ensure that Eurotunnel is fully included in its ‘no deal’ Brexit planning."

A DfT spokesperson said: “These claims are utter nonsense as the contracts agreed with ferry companies are entirely compliant with UK law.

“These contingency measures are only intended to be used in a no-deal scenario and we will continue to work closely with Eurotunnel to maximise flows through the tunnel."

Eurotunnel has been contacted for comment.

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