The boss of the Port of Calais has branded Transport Secretary Chris Grayling “failing Grayling” and has said he would ban the minister from his town.
Jean-Marc Puissesseau, also Calais’ deputy mayor, said Theresa May’s Cabinet ally had shown “disrespect” to his French seaside town over Brexit plans to divert ferries via Belgium if Britain crashes out of the EU.
The chief hit out in January after Grayling awarded £100m of contracts to three ferry companies - one of which was Seaborne Freight, which does not have a single operational ferry - while French port workers were busy making detailed preparations for no-deal gridlock.
He said: “It is not fair at all, it is completely disrespectful. I don’t want to see him again.”
He went on: “Mr Grayling came to us in November and asked us if we would be ready. We told him ‘yes’, though we did not know as much as we know today. He did not tell us that he wanted to reduce the activity (at Calais).”
Puissesseau also joked that Grayling was now so unpopular in Calais that he would have to pass through a proposed ‘traffic light’ system if he visited the port again.
To keep the port running smoothly after Brexit, the port is preparing to flash green for lorries with the right paperwork, red for lorries with no paperwork, and orange for drivers who are not sure.
“I have heard he is ‘failing Grayling’ ... He will have to have a declaration if he comes to Calais. He will have to go through the orange lane,” Puissesseau said.
The much-beleaguered transport secretary has overseen huge disruptions on the railways last summer and drone chaos at Gatwick Airport over Christmas, and earned the unfavourable moniker.
In an interview with Parliament’s The House magazine, Grayling recently said he thought people want him to step down from his post because of his attempts to modernise the railway industry.
He said the RMT Union were among those calling for him to be removed from his cabinet role.
“There are people like the RMT Union who have been trying to get me to resign for the last nine months,” he said. “This is a trade union that regards Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party as too right wing to affiliate to and wants to stand in the way of modernisation of the railways.”