Freight News, Sea

Don’t let Welsh and Scots freeports get left behind, warns BPA

[ September 1, 2021   //   ]

The British Ports Association (BPA) has welcomed HMRC ‘s publication of guidance for operators on operating Freeport customs sites for England but warns that this is in stark contrast to the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales. It says it raises new calls for parity of the Freeports process for all nations of the UK.

The BPA says that while it has been supportive of the concept of Freeports across the UK and believes they can be a force for immense good, it points out that the winning English bids were announced before any agreement on Freeports in the devolved administrations and there are legitimate fears amongst ports there that they will be left behind.

BPA policy manager and economic analyst Phoebe Warneford-Thomson said that while it was welcome to see the detail on the operation of a UK and to see the swift progression of the Freeports in England this had to be set against the marked delay in the progression of the Freeports policy outside of England.

The industry understands that talks between the UK government and the various national administrations of the UK have been unproductive and marked by disagreement and delay – that has ultimately put ports and businesses in harm’s way. Governments of all administrations must not continue to allow them to get caught up in political tension.

There has also been speculation of threats by the UK Government to enforce the UK Freeport model on the devolved administrations. However, this is not welcomed by industry as in this case, the Freeport package would not include devolved levers such as planning, enterprise and certain tax mechanisms. For Freeports to be implemented properly and fairly, ports must have access to the same mechanisms or be resigned to being less competitive with ports in England, making the model ineffective in devolved regions.