Dr Albert Sanchez-Graells’ #FerryGate evidence discussed in House of Commons emergency debate
Press release issued: 14 March 2019
Written evidence submitted by the Law School’s Dr Albert Sanchez-Graells was quoted during an emergency debate on EU Exit Preparations and Ferry Contracts in the House of Commons on 5 March.
As part of its December 2018 'No-Deal Brexit' preparations, the Department of Transport issued contracts for additional shipping freight capacity - in what Twitter swiftly labelled #FerryGate.
In January this year, Dr Sanchez-Graells submitted written evidence to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee in the inquiry on “Freight and Brexit", addressing the potential illegality of these contracts and urging the Committee to undertake a detailed assessment, as the award of the contracts could evidence underlying Governmental trade-impeding policies that can compromise a future UK-EU free trade deal.
In an emergency debate that took place in the House of Commons last week, Chair of the Transport Committee Lilian Greenwood said:
"I would like to make the House aware of the written evidence submitted by Dr Albert Sanchez-Graells. He is a reader in economic law at the University of Bristol Law School, a former member of the European Commission stakeholder expert group on public procurement, a member of the European Procurement Law Group and a member of the Procurement Lawyers’ Association Brexit working group".
Quoting the submitted evidence, Lilian Greenwood continued:
"Dr Sanchez-Graells was clear in his evidence to our Committee that 'The award of three contracts for ‘additional shipping freight capacity’ in the context of the Government’s ‘No-Deal’ preparations raises important illegality concerns.'
He said that, under regulation 32(2) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, '‘extreme urgency’ only exists where an unforeseeable event renders impossible the observance of the time-limits laid down for calls for tenders.'
He said that the award of the three contracts for additional capacity seems 'likely' to be in breach of that regulation, 'as there was time to comply with the 60 calendar days’ time limit required by alternative, transparent competitive procedures with negotiation.'
He went on to say: 'Even if it was accepted that there was no time for alternative competitive procedures… the award to Seaborne Freight (UK) Ltd still raises issues of potential illegality. The Secretary of State for Transport has justified the award as an act of support for a new British start-up business. This fact, coupled with…the lack of readiness of the port infrastructure…undercuts the rationale of the extreme urgency of the procurement and heightens the likely illegality of the award.'
We now know that the Department faced a legal challenge from Eurotunnel and that settling the case has cost UK taxpayers at least £33 million."
The full submission can be read online: Written Evidence to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee in relation to its inquiry “Freight and Brexit”
Dr Albert Sanchez Graells is a Reader in Economic Law at the University of Bristol Law School. He is a specialist in European economic law, with a main focus on competition law and public procurement. He is also interested in general issues of sector regulation and, more broadly, in the rules supporting the development and expansion of the European Union's internal market. He takes a law and economics approach to his research and is particularly keen on the analysis of the systems of incentives and enforcement mechanisms that law creates or facilitates.
For further information about legal news, events and research related to Brexit please visit the Law School’s Brexit Centre website.