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Chris Grayling's Brexit ferry saga cost taxpayer almost £1m in legal fees

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Transport minister Chris Grayling. Photo: Press Association

The government’s handling of the no-deal Brexit ferry saga cost taxpayers almost £1m in legal fees for its settlement with Eurotunnel alone.

New figures seen by Yahoo Finance UK show the UK government paid law firm Slaughter and May almost £711,000 in fees, not including VAT.

The department for transport also paid £84,000 to barristers and £144,000 to the government’s in-house legal department.

It comes on top of controversy over a £14m contract for a ferry firm that owned no boats, and a £33m settlement with Eurotunnel who claimed they were unfairly blocked from bidding.

The botched handling of the contracts was a huge political embarrassment and sparked widespread criticism of the transport minister Chris Grayling, dubbed ‘Failing Grayling’ by critics over a series of mishaps.

READ MORE: The big hole in Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal plans

The contracts were awarded as part of the government’s contingency plans in case Britain left without a deal in April to ensure key supplies still reached the UK.

But the contracts are reported to have still been paid even when the plans were put on hold, after Britain asked for its planned exit to be delayed until the end of October.

The department was forced to reveal the legal costs, totalling almost £939,000 and including other parties’ bills to Slaughter and May, in response to a freedom of information request.

A government spokeswoman said: “The cross-government decision to reach agreement with Eurotunnel protected vital freight capacity, ensuring critical supplies including medicines for our NHS could enter the country in the event of disruption at Dover.

“Specialist legal advice was regularly used to inform decisions.”