The U.K. will spend more than £107 million on ferries to ease congestion at ports in case of a no-deal Brexit.
The Department of Transport has awarded contracts to French, Danish and British companies to develop additional lorry capacity at the ports of Poole, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Immingham and Felixstowe.
Increased checks after Brexit could “cause delivery of critical goods to be delayed” and significantly disrupt the road network around the port of Dover, the BBC reported, citing documents outlining the agreements.
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable described the move as “complete madness” as the government has the power to stop a no-deal Brexit at any time.
“The fact that this money is predominantly going to European companies is nothing short of ironic,” Cable told the BBC.
The Danish company DFDS was awarded a contract worth £47.3 million and British firm Seaborne a £13.8 million deal. Frances Brittany Ferries contract is worth £46.6 million.
The additional crossings would amount to about 10 percent of existing traffic across the Strait of Dover and provide up to half a million tonnes a month in extra capacity.
The documents state that an “unforeseeable” situation of “extreme urgency” meant there was no time for the contracts to be put out to tender.
According to the BBC, however, a number of firms were considered and there was a private negotiation process.
In a statement, Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, said while the government is “rightly preparing for every eventuality,” it is “not clear if Government-chartered ships can move faster or more efficiently than the private sector, particularly as these goods will still need to go through the same customs procedures in ports — which is where the real problems would be.”