The mayor of Ostend has told the BBC that the Belgian port will not be ready for a new ferry line in time for Brexit. Mayor Bart Tommelein was asked about the UK government's award of a £13.8 million contract to Seaborne Freight for a service between Ramsgate and Ostend.
He said it was "impossible" that Ostend would be ready and that he was going to Ramsgate next week to discuss the situation with "all the stakeholders". His remarks came as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling again defended the deal.
Grayling, appearing in the Commons to answer an urgent question tabled by Labour, said no money would be spent unless the service operated correctly. He said there were "no reasons to believe any of those involved in this business are not fit to do business with government".
The controversy erupted after the BBC discovered that Seaborne had never run a ferry service before and did not have any ships. Later, it was discovered to have used terms and conditions on its website apparently intended for a takeaway food firm.