£100m bill for extra ferries to help ease backlogs in the Channel in case of no-deal Brexit

Deals have been agreed with Brittany Ferries, DFDS and Seaborne Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

More than £100 million has been spent on extra ferries as part of plans to ease potential problems in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Documents outlining the £107.7m agreements say increased border checks in UK ports after Brexit could “cause delivery of critical goods to be delayed” in the event of no deal.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has signed contracts with French firm Brittany Ferries, Danish company DFDS and the UK’s Seaborne to ease pressure on Dover.

The plans have been described as "complete madness" by the Liberal Democrats, who said public money was being spent "recklessly" in a last-minute bid to prepare for a no-deal outcome.

The extra crossings are understood to be the equivalent of around 10 per cent of the current traffic on the Dover Strait and will see ports in Poole, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Immingham and Felixstowe used.

Contracts were not put out to tender, with the DfT saying it was a “situation of extreme urgency” brought about by “unforeseeable events”.

DFDS was awarded a contract worth £47.3m, while Seaborne Freight was given a £13.8m deal.

The contract with Brittany Ferries is worth £46.6m, with the company adding 19 return sailings to three routes between the UK and France.

More sailings will travel between Roscoff and Plymouth, Cherbourg and Poole, and Le Havre and Portsmouth, representing a 50 per cent increase on its current schedule.

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

The move aims to ease pressure on Dover in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal Credit: PA

“By increasing the number of rotations on routes like Le Havre to 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 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."

A spokesman for the DfT said the extra capacity was a "small but important" part of the department’s planning for the possibility of crashing out of the EU without a deal.

“While remaining committed to working to ensure a deal is reached successfully, the department is helping ensure the rest of government is 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," he said.