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Freeports idea has wind in its sails

[ September 9, 2019   //   ]

Political momentum is building in favour of freeports, said speakers at a conference organised by the British Ports Association in London on 9 September. Deputy director of maritime policy at the Department for Transport, Rod Paterson told the event, used to launch a new Port Zones UK report, that there was now “a strong political drive” around freeports policy and that shipping and freeports minister Nusrat Ghani “cares very passionately” about the plan to create up to ten freeports or port zones around the UK.

The report has been produced by Port Zones UK, a new coalition of British airport and seaport operators.

The government was now asking port and airport operators, and their customers, for their views on how freeports and port zone should operate, ahead of planned legislation to create them.

He added that the UK’s planned departure from the EU would be an opportunity to reshape UK policy on freeports; current rules severely curtail the customs facilitations that can be offered.

Grimsby and Immingham MP, and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Freeports Group, Martin Vickers told the gathering that the government had been convinced of the case for freeports, although there might still be some battles to be won with the Treasury. Freeports, he said, would “be an opportunity to open up the UK to world markets.” sadly, the UK was not currently at the forefront of developing and promoting the concept compared with, for example, the UAE, US and China.

He suggested that UK freeports could be targeted on high-unemployment zones, especially in the north of England and had the potential to create 75,000 jobs, possibly as many as 150,000. He also dismissed suggestions from other politicians and trade unions that freeports were “sinister plan to create tax havens”.

However, freeports could only be developed if the UK was to perform a full Brexit, as opposed to . remaining in the EU customs union.

(More in the next printed issue of FBJ – FBJ 6 2019).

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