The apparent website blunder will heighten concerns about whether the company’s service will be ready on time. The T&Cs state: “It is the responsibility of the customer to thoroughly check the supplied goods before agreeing to pay for any meal/order.” Another section refers to home deliveries, saying: “It is the responsibility of the customer to ensure delivery address details are correct and detailed enough for the delivery driver to locate the address in adequate time.” Shortly after the Standard emailed the company asking for an explanation, both paragraphs were removed from the website.
Ramsgate has not had a cross-Channel service since 2013, when operators TransEuropa collapsed.
— Jon (@ormondroyd) January 2, 2019
On 7 January 2019, Joanna Cherry MP enquired in the House of Commons about the reason for the government using Regulation 32 procedures to enable it to negotiate the Seaborne contract behind closed doors without a published invitation to tender, when it had known for some time that there was a risk of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. She asked whether the government would publish the legal advice it was given that enabled it to proceed under Regulation 32. She was not given an answer. On 9 January 2019, in a Parliamentary Brexit Committee meeting, Ms Cherry asked Christopher Heaton-Harris, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union, what "extreme urgency" enabled the government to use Regulation 32, given that the government had had staff working on no-deal Brexit contingeny planning for two years, but again her question was not answered.
Seaborne Freight will be running a service between Ramsgate and Ostend when they find a ferry that will fit into the Ramsgate’s narrow port berths.
The developments came as MPs threatened to block Cabinet ministers’ salaries if the Government ignores the Commons and allows a no-deal Brexit. Writing in today’s Standard, former Labour minister Chris Leslie says Parliament must “show its teeth”.
No 10 is playing down the chances of a breakthrough in Mrs May’s attempts to persuade EU leaders to clarify that a backstop on the Irish border to show it would be only temporary and quell a major revolt among MPs.
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The Evening Standard attempted to contact the firm on the two telephone numbers it lists on the website, but calls were greeted by a recorded message stating: “There is currently no one available to take your call.”
Flanked by seagulls against a powder-blue sky, a dredger is on day two of its low-rumbling shuffle across Ramsgate harbour. The job of excavating two-and-a-half metres of mud from the port is slow and dull. But the UK’s only royal harbour has become the site of fevered debate as it prepares to turn into “a second Dover” in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
In January 2019, Private Eye reported that "Ben Sharp's other company, Albany Shipping (which also has no boats)" claimed to have been "fundamental in the creation of a new shipping fund in the UK specifically for the purpose of purchasing offshore vessels […] based in Gibraltar and […] managed by Flexagon Capital Solutions LLP in London”; the magazine also quoted Flexagon's boss as saying that it had "'never raised a pound', was dormant and had nothing to do with Seabourne".
A memo seen by Channel 4 News stated that the security of the site is in the hands of Seaborne Freight.
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“People must be given the final say on the Brexit deal with a people’s vote where they have the right to choose to remain.”
Seaborne said in a statement it had been working since 2017 on plans to reintroduce ferry sailings from Ramsgate from early 2019 and has been “financed by the shareholders” during a development phase.
At a budget meeting on 7 February 2019, Thanet District Council proposed to cut £730,000 of spending on the port of Ramsgate. This could have prevented Ramsgate reopening as a ferry port. However, the Council agreed to delay the decision at the request of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. The Council's budget must be approved by 11 March 2019, which is 18 days before the UK is due to leave the European Union.
“If ministers show contempt for Commons resolutions, MPs should simply refuse to supply the money to pay all ministerial salaries,” he said. “And that would be just the start.”
On 22 December 2018, the company was awarded a £13.8 million contract to run ferry services between Ramsgate and Ostend to lessen the consequences of probable capacity constraints on the Dover - Calais route after 29 March 2019 in the case of a no-deal Brexit. The Ramsgate - Ostend route was last operated by Transeuropa Ferries in 2013.
The Seaborne deal was part of £103m Brexit preparations from the Government to build extra capacity in cross channel freight services in the event of a no deal resulting in customs checks causing queues.
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Another two much more sizeable contracts were awarded to the DFDS of Denmark and France's Brittany Ferries.
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Deal 'sums up the farcical approach to entire Brexit fiasco', say Lib Dems
Whether the company had an agreement beforehand, or it was all words between friends, the boutique have a stern warning at the bottom of their website:
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Disaster Seaborne Freight
Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign for a second referendum, said: “Never has it been clearer that our government is selling us down the river over Brexit.
Reporters have been briefed that the contract payment would be made in arrears, with nothing going to the company until some time after freight operations started.
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The Transport Secretary stated that a procurement exercise had taken place to secure additional ferry capacity in the event of no-deal. Three operators were awarded contracts: Brittany Ferries, DFDS and a third smaller contract to Seaborne Freight. Chris Grayling said that no money would be paid to these companies unless they are operating ferries.
“We voted a Ukip council but not because we’re … Ukip-y,” explained Davis. “We were fed up – but it’s gotten worse. We’re being left behind.”
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Ramsgate has been hit hard by a decade of austerity, unemployment is higher than the average for both Kent and the country as a whole. Where neighbouring Margate has enjoyed a resurgence by attracting an artistic community priced out of London, this district of Thanet once had the UK’s only Ukip-led council.
Andy McDonald responded on behalf of the opposition, saying the £14million contract had been awarded "...to a company with no money, no ships, no track record, no employees, no ports, one telephone line and no working website or sailing schedule".
He also questioned whether the Government had carried out sufficient checks on the firm, and told the BBC: “It has no ships and no trading history so how can due diligence be done? Why choose a company that never moved a single truck in their entire history and give them £14 million? I don’t understand the logic of that.”