Britain’s international trade Secretary Liz Truss has announced a new Freeports Advisory Panel to advise the government on the establishment of up to 10 Freeports, aiming at boosting the UK’s trade performance post-Brexit.
Ports and airports across the UK will be invited to bid to become one of up to 10 Freeports.
Freeports are envisaged as hubs for business and enterprise for both manufacturing and services trade, which could be free of unnecessary checks and paperwork, and include customs and tax benefits.
These zones are meant to reduce costs and bureaucracy, encouraging manufacturing businesses to set up or re-shore. It is hoped that the most successful Freeports will attract businesses and create jobs for local people through liberalised planning laws.
The UK hopes that the policy will enable Britain to take advantage of potentially increased trade with the USA and Asian markets following Brexit and provided that free trade deals are signed with global partners.
International trade secretary Liz Truss stated: “Freedoms transformed London’s Docklands in the 1980s, and Freeports will do the same for towns and cities across the UK. They will onshore enterprise and manufacturing as the gateway to our future prosperity, creating thousands of jobs.
“We will have a truly independent trade policy after we leave the EU on October 31. I look forward to working with the Freeports Advisory Panel to create the world’s most advanced Freeport model and launch the new ports as soon as possible.”
So far, ports which have expressed an interest in the bidding process include the Port of Tyne, Milford Haven and London Gateway while making Teesport a Freeport is seen as a method to develop the country’s Northern Powerhouse policy, designed to support the economy in the north of England.
The Port of Tyne is advocating the setting up of Freeport designation zones, or ‘Virtual Free Ports’ that seek to benefit complex supply chains that will be hardest hit by Brexit.
A Virtual Free Port would sit outside of UK customs and offer the ability to defer payment of taxes on imported goods and materials and would avoid them altogether, if final goods are exported.
Rather than a Freeport model that is restricted to a geographic boundary, which many fear could restrict the economy and negatively impact business in the North, a Virtual Free Port would consist of multiple sites connecting a port to other regional international ports, regional Enterprise Zones and IMAP.
This model would greatly benefit Nissan’s UK manufacturing facility, and others including Komatsu and Hitachi, the Port of Tyne noted.
Among the members of the Freeports Advisory Panel is Tim Morris, CEO of UK Major Ports Group.