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Freeports over-hyped, says Tudor Freight boss

[ August 19, 2019   //   ]

Leeds-based Tudor International Freight director Adam Johnson, director says that the benefits of freeports should not be overstated.

While international trade secretary Liz Truss has claimed recently, when unveiling a vision for the UK to open up to ten freeports across the country that they would transform towns and cities across the UK, they were unlikely to go anywhere near mitigating the economic downsides of a no-deal Brexit or even the UK leaving the EU customs union alone. Also, as the government announced in March there would be no tariffs on 87% of the UK’s imports for up to a year, if the country leaves the EU without a deal, freeports would bring few additional benefits to international traders within them, at least initially, other than reduced form-filling and perhaps a slightly lighter regulatory regime than would apply elsewhere.

Mr Johnson said there were about 3,500 freeports in around 135 countries worldwide but evidence of the benefits they delivered also seemed patchy.

Mr Johnson said one way of increasing the effectiveness of freeports could be to combine them with other measures, such as subsidies and further tax incentives. But, as the Institute for Government had pointed out, these would risk infringing the rules of organisations such as the EU.

He added: “One final reason for British businesses to suspect the government may be over-hyping the benefits of freeports was the suggestion by new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during the Conservative leadership election campaign, that we had to leave the EU to be able to create these zones.

“In fact, there are currently about 80 similar areas within the bloc and we lack them here partly because the domestic legislation making them possible lapsed in 2012 and the Conservative-led coalition government of the time didn’t renew it.”