'It became clear Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements with the government. We have therefore decided to terminate our agreement,' she told Reuters.

The government’s decision to award the 14 million pound ($18.1 million) contract in December, even though Seaborne Freight did not have any ships, had been heavily criticized by opposition politicians and others.

According to the spokeswoman, the government was in advanced talks with a number of companies to secure additional freight capacity — including through the Port of Ramsgate — in case of a no-deal Brexit. Britain awarded contracts worth more than 100 million pounds in total to three shipping firms to provide extra ferries, including the French firm Brittany Ferries and Danish group DFDS.

However, she noted no taxpayer money had been transferred to Seaborne, adding that for commercial reasons the government had previously not been able to name Arklow Shipping’s involvement.

The opposition Labour Party called the latest development 'a national embarrassment'.

Britain’s EU membership means that trucks now drive smoothly through border checks within the 28-nation bloc. But after a no-deal Brexit, even a few minutes’ delay at customs for each truck could mean vehicles backed up at ports and queuing on feeder roads on both sides of the Channel.

Britain is on course to leave the EU at the end of next month without a deal unless Prime Minister Theresa May can convince the bloc to reopen the divorce agreement she reached in November and then sell it to skeptical British lawmakers.