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Saturday February 23rd, 2019 2:46AM

The Latest: UK watchdog slams government over ferry contract

By The Associated Press
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LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Britain's exit from the European Union (all times local):

9:15 a.m.

Britain's spending watchdog has issued a damning assessment of the Department of Transport's efforts to secure a ferry contract to ease disruption in the event the country leaves the European Union without an agreement on future relations.

The National Audit Office says it was only last autumn that the government recognized the possibility of significant disruption to freight traffic for up to six months after Brexit, rather than previous estimates of six weeks.

The department signed a 13.8 million-pound ($17.7 million) deal with Seaborne Freight, even though the firm had no ships and failed to meet the criteria for the contract.

The contract was terminated last weekend after Irish company Arklow Shipping, which had backed the new operation, backed away from the deal.

___

9:10 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to urge lawmakers to "hold their nerve" as she struggles to finalize a divorce agreement with the European Union.

May will update the House of Commons on Tuesday on the state of the negotiations, a day earlier than planned to give lawmakers more time to "digest" the remarks before a series of votes on Thursday.

In excerpts released before her statement, May says: "The talks are at a crucial stage. We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this House has required and deliver Brexit on time."

Britain is scheduled to leave the bloc on March 29. Parliament last month rejected May's deal with the EU, partly because of concerns it would tie Britain to the bloc indefinitely.

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