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UK seems determined to establish Free Ports

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has announced a new Freeports Advisory Panel to advise the government on the establishment of up to 10 Freeports

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UK seems determined to establish Free Ports

"The first new Freeports will be established after we leave the EU, to turbocharge growth and ensure towns and cities across the UK benefit from Brexit trade opportunities," stated Truss, a staunch Brexiteer, like all of Boris Johnson’s new Cabinet. Ports and airports across the UK will be invited to bid to become one of up to 10 Freeports.

 

The Freeports Advisory Panel will include Ministers from the Department for International Trade and HM Treasury, as well as experts. The experts are Tim Morris, CEO of UK Major Ports Group, Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, Dr Meredith Crowley, Trade Economist, University of Cambridge, Henry Overman, Professor of Economic Geography, London School of Economics, Dan Korski, CBE, Founder, Public, Dr Eamonn Butler, Director, Adam Smith Institute, Tom Clougherty, Head of Tax, Centre for Policy Studies, and Emma Jones, MBE, Enterprise Nation Founder.

 

"Expected to transform the country’s ports and airports just as freedoms transformed London’s Docklands in the 1980s, up to ten Freeports will be created after the UK leaves the EU on 31 October. More details on how ports and airports across the country will be able to bid for Freeport status will be announced soon," says the DTI statement.

Ben Houchen, the Rt hon Liz Truss MP and Simon Clarke MP at Teesport (Photo from ITV.com)
Ben Houchen, the Rt hon Liz Truss MP and Simon Clarke MP at Teesport (Photo from ITV.com)

Clearly the Panel is not about whether, but about how.

 

"Expected to transform the country’s ports and airports just as freedoms transformed London’s Docklands in the 1980s, up to ten Freeports will be created after the UK leaves the EU on 31 October. More details on how ports and airports across the country will be able to bid for Freeport status will be announced soon," says the DTI statement.

 

In Truss’s view, "Freeports are hubs for business and enterprise for both manufacturing and services trade. These could be free of unnecessary checks and paperwork, and include customs and tax benefits. These zones reduce costs and bureaucracy, encouraging manufacturing businesses to set up or re-shore. The most successful Freeports globally attract businesses and create jobs for local people through liberalised planning laws.

 

"Freeports ensure Britain’s port cities and airports are ready to take full advantage of post-Brexit opportunities, including increased trade with the USA and fast-growing Asian markets as we sign our first free trade deals with global partners.

 

"Britain’s decision to leave the EU on 31st October will mean we can operate an independent trade policy for the first time in 45 years, setting our own regulations and developing our own policies to boost economies around the country.

 

"There are already thousands of very successful free trading zones around the world, with the United States having pioneered the creation of over 250 free trade zones, employing 420,000 people, many in high-skilled manufacturing jobs. If the UK model is implemented as successfully, it could have a significant economic impact."

 

Truss paid a special visit to Tees Port when making her announcement. Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has championed Freeports, and a report commissioned by his authority found a Freeport could provide a significant boost to his region and the UK area’s GDP. Other ports that have expressed an interest in the bidding process include the Port of Tyne, Milford Haven and London Gateway.

 

Houchen said: "Creating a Freeport right here [in Teesport] would turbocharge jobs and growth, bringing investment into the region and making us a global hub of enterprise and innovation."

 

Morris said: "Free Ports are a potentially transformational opportunity for locations with the right conditions and strong local support. They have proved to be successful in stimulating investment and jobs in a range of locations around the world.

Tim Morris
Tim Morris

"We welcome the Government’s call for free port proposals. It’s the right thing to do to open the opportunity to all and let the strongest bids come through. It’s an exciting project to be part of and UKMPG looks forward to its role on the Panel alongside our work improving conditions for development more generally to boost investment, jobs and prosperity in coastal communities.”

 

UKMPG’s members are ABP, Bristol Ports Company, Belfast Harbour Commissioners, DP World London Gateway, Forth Ports, Hutchison Ports UK, Peel Ports and the PLA.

 

The British Ports Association, which commissioned its own report on Freeports two years ago, is not part of the Panel.

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