SNP MEP Alyn Smith has written to the EU Commission calling for an investigation into the process through which the UK Government awarded three ferry contracts worth more than £107.7 million.

Smith’s letter outlines concerns that proper procurement processed have not been followed and that the Government’s handling of the situation sets a worrying precedent for similar contracts.

The Government claims that the contracts were awarded to help ease congestion at Dover by securing extra lorry capacity in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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However, they have faced fierce criticism after it emerged last week that Seaborne Freight, who were awarded a £13.8m contract, had what appeared to be terms and conditions on its website more akin to a food delivery service.

The National:

“It is the responsibility of the customer to thoroughly check the supplied goods before agreeing to pay for any meal/order,” read part of the text on the company’s website.

The gaffe saw tough questions raised over the capability of the company but also the due diligence of the Government in awarding the contract to Seaborne Freight.

In his letter, Smith writes: “I am concerned that proper procurement process has not been followed and that as well as potentially representing an extremely poor deal for the UK taxpayer and their impact on competition and the single market, the contracts could be used as templates for future, bigger, contracts likely to be awarded by the UK Government. I would be grateful if your services could investigate.”

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The UK Department for Transport awarded three contracts for additional shipping freight capacity direct to providers without running an open EU competitive process.

In late December, three contract award notices (CANs) were published in the Official Journal of the European Union announcing the awarding of contracts to Danish shipping and logistics firm, DFDS A/S for £42.3m, French company Bretagne Angleterre Irlande for £46.6m and Seaborne Freight (UK) Ltd for £13.8m.

The contracts are for additional freight capacity services between England and France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany and are intended “to minimise the potential disruption of trade across the Short Straits in the event that the UK leaves the EU without an agreement”.

The Department for Transport justified the direct awarding of the contracts due to their status as cases of “extreme urgency”. The CANs state that “extreme urgency [was] brought about by events unforeseeable” for the contracting authority and “in accordance with the strict conditions stated in the directive”.

However, Smith’s letter highlights his concerns that the UK Government’s spending-spree has led to public money being squandered.

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“Under Article 32 of the Directive and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice I cannot see how proper process has been followed,” Smith writes.

“Not only has the risk of disruption to trade been apparent since the start of the Brexit process, the sense of

crisis, now, has been reached entirely by the actions of the UK Government itself.

“I fear that public money is being wasted in order to provide an illusion of action, but the effect on the ground will be minimal.”

In response to Smith’s call for an investigation, a Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We undertook a competitive procurement process to secure additional ferry capacity between the UK and the EU which is in line with proper procedures.”

Smith, speaking to the Sunday National, said that he eagerly anticipated the response of the EU Commission on the matter.

He said: “Having just taken the UK Government to the European Court of Justice and won, I don’t have a lot of respect for UK Government civil servants and I have zero respect for the vandals who claim to be in charge of the UK Government.

“I believe there are severe deficiencies to these processes and I look forward to hearing the ruling of the EU Commission.”