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Free ports could be key to post-Brexit growth, says report

[ November 14, 2016   //   ]

Brexit could be an opportunity for the UK to revisit the idea of freeports, according to a report authored by Richmond, Yorkshire MP, Rishi Sunak and published by think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies.

The report – co-authored by researchers Isaac Delestre and Philip Naylor – argues that free ports would provide a rapid response to Brexit, increasing manufacturing output, reinvigorating the North, and promoting trade. They could create more 86,000 jobs, if they were as successful as those in the US.

It envisages that free port jobs would mainly be created in areas outside London where economic need is higher. Of the UK’s 30 largest ports, 17 are in least prosperous local economies.

Free ports are not an entirely new idea in the UK. Six were originally created in the 1980s, EU regulations increasingly limited their attractiveness and the UK decided not to its licences in 2012. Similarly, the Shannon Free Zone in the Republic of Ireland found that the incentives it could offer increasingly eroded by EU rules, although it remains an important business cluster.

Brexit could however transform the prospects for free ports, argues the report.

Free Ports are, in effect, enclaves within countries that allow goods to enter and re without incurring usual import procedures or tariffs. They could also be fundamentally simple and quick to set up, and there is plenty of experience in other parts of the world to draw on.

Rishi Sunak commented: Upon leaving the EU, Britain will find itself with more opportunities for economic innovation than at any time in almost 50 years. As the date of our departure draws closer, it will be the responsibility of Government to ensure Britain is not timid in seizing those opportunities.
Foreign Trade Zones are flourishing all around the world – except in the EU. Post-Brexit they could play an important role in signalling Britain’s openness to the world, as well as reconnecting the nation with its proud maritime history.”
Associated British Ports chief executive, James Cooper, added: “Ports are key to the nation’s trade and many offer ideal locations for new manufacturing. They should be front and centre of an industrial strategy to boost exports and re-balance the economy.
“This report is an example of the creative and ambitious thinking that should underpin such a strategy, maximising the potential of our ports to promote export-led growth and helping forge a prosperous future post-Brexit.”

British Ports Association director Richard Ballantyne described the report’s argument as “an interesting concept which we will explore with our members. The Brexit vote has prompted a number of discussions to do with trade and customs policy and any options which improve potential flow of goods and passengers at our ports are well worth exploring further.”

He added: A free port system could be more beneficial for some ports and it is important to ensure any proposals properly reflect the diversity of the UK ports industry”




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