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Thanet taxpayers 'must not foot bill for failed Seaborne deal', says South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay

By Matt Leclere

A Kent MP says the government must foot the bill for the bungled Brexit ferry contract and make sure residents do not pay the costs of the cancelled contract.

Craig Mackinlay told the prime minister taxpayers in Thanet must not bear the brunt of costs after the government terminated the deal with Seaborne Freight to run ferries between Ramsgate and Ostend.

The South Thanet MP urged Theresa May to ensure Thanet District Council and the district's taxpayers do not pay for the preparations to keep Ramsgate port open after Brexit.

Craig Mackinlay (7024537)
Craig Mackinlay (7024537)

Mrs May was quizzed over the decision to cancel the £13.8 million deal with Seaborne - a company without any ships - after one of the firm's main financial backers pulled out last week.

Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in Westminster, Mrs May said the Department for Transport (DfT) is looking into his concerns about the cost to Thanet residents.

She confirmed the government was in talks with Thanet council about what needed to be done to safeguard the authority and taxpayers from any additional financial burden.

Mr Mackinlay said: "I know the Department for Transport is already in talks with a number of companies to secure additional freight capacity and Ramsgate will remain at a state of readiness under any outcome.

"Thanet will do what’s in the national interest to assist with Brexit preparedness; we’ll be proud to do so, but it’s wrong to expect Thanet taxpayers to pay for it.

"I’ll continue to stand up for South Thanet and have pointed out forcefully to the government that local taxpayers must not be financially disadvantaged by national Brexit preparations undertaken locally."

Prime minister Theresa May respond's to the MP's question (7155804)
Prime minister Theresa May respond's to the MP's question (7155804)

The prime minister faced questions from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the Commons during PMQs, labelling the government's handling of the Seaborne deal as "a fiasco".

Mrs May is being lobbied to sack transport secretary Chris Grayling for the handling of the Seaborne debacle.

That point was taken up by Mr Corbyn prompting the prime minister to defend Mr Grayling's role in the saga adding no public money had been paid to Seaborne Freight.

But Mr Corbyn said the government now faced a £1m bill for defending itself in a legal challenge from Eurotunnel, which was taking it to court over the way the contracts had been handled.

He said Thanet council now faced a £2m black hole and pressed the PM to give a “cast iron guarantee” that the local taxpayers would not have to meet the costs.

Jeremy Corbyn criticises the lorry convoy test in the House of Commons. Picture: Parliament TV (7155822)
Jeremy Corbyn criticises the lorry convoy test in the House of Commons. Picture: Parliament TV (7155822)

But Mr Mackinlay attacked Mr Corbyn's questioning saying he is the one speaking for South Thanet not the Labour leader telling him "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing".

Earlier in the exchanges, Mr Corbyn said: "It cannot be right that the hard pressed taxpayers of Thanet are footing the bill for the incompetence of the Secretary of State and this government.”

Mr Mackinlay added: "I’ve always considered the likelihood of delay at the Dover-Calais crossing to be remote no matter what the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

"Regional representatives from the Pas de Calais share my view because international law governing cross-border trade protects the crossing."

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