Claims in recent news stories that a £77m support grant is earmarked for ports are about as real as one of Chris Grayling’s phantom ferries, say Lewes Lib Dems.
“Only this Tory government would have the nerve to dress up measures to sort out its desperate Brexit chaos as a good news story”, said Cllr James MacCleary, Lewes Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesperson. “With something as important to us locally in Lewes District as the ferry service and freight capacity in Newhaven, to spin a grant that isn’t real as a big win is cynical to the highest degree. Announcements like this should be subject to proper scrutiny. This isn’t about supporting the port but putting in emergency measures to cover the transport of critical goods in the event of severe Brexit impacts at Dover, a situation which would have never arisen had the government negotiated a proper exit deal.
“This announcement is bad news for the NHS, local people and the UK. The ferry contracts only kick in if the main cross channel route is logjammed and other less heavily used routes such as Newhaven, Portsmouth and Southampton need to be brought in as emergency support for Dover crossing. The £77m agreement only secures an emergency freight capacity. Importantly, these contracts only last for 6 months and if there is no need for the extra freight capacity then the contracts will be terminated and only a fraction of the contract paid to the ferry companies.
“In practice, this means £77m in support is an illusion. It’s another smoke and mirrors trick from the hand of Dominic Cummings. Only if we have a chaotic Brexit and the Dover crossing under massive pressure will any of this money come to Newhaven. For Newhaven to benefit under such circumstances would mean that the surrounding economy and businesses would pay the price of our no deal exit with the deeply negative effects on our town and local economy. Maria Caulfield or the Tory Government are not saving the ferry industry and Newhaven port. They are engaging in a last ditch stand to delude voters about the devastating effects of a No Deal Brexit.”