UK set to establish up to ten new freeports after leaving EU

The government has announced plans to create ten freeports in the UK after Brexit. The plan follows a 2018 Mace-led report on the economic benefits of supercharged ports, and the government has now appointed an advisory panel to help establish the ports.

Freeports are described as hubs for business and enterprise for both manufacturing and services trade. These could be free of unnecessary checks and paperwork, and include customs and tax benefits. The zones reduce costs and bureaucracy, encouraging manufacturing businesses to set up or re-shore. 

Mace point out that governments across the world use freeports to drive economic growth around strategic trading ports. By removing import and export duties on goods that don’t leave the area, local growth is stimulated and trade directly incentivised. 

Five northern ports alone - Grimsby & Immingham, Liverpool, Tees & Hartlepool, Hull and the Rivers Hull & Humber - handle more than £150bn of goods every year. And, with Brexit on the horizon, more and more attention is turning to how our goods enter and leave the UK, and how the UK will grow its vital trading relationships once it has left the EU. 

Mace’s latest Insights report shows the ports could generate more than 150,000 jobs, add more than £9bn a year to the UK economy, and put the equivalent of £1,500 a year in the pockets of every northern family. 

Ports and airports across the UK will be invited to bid to become one of up to ten freeports, and the Freeports Advisory Panel will include ministers from the Department for International Trade and HM Treasury, as well as experts including technology advisor Daniel Korski, small business champion Emma Jones MBE, tax specialist Tom Clougherty and economist Dr Eamonn Butler.

International trade secretary Liz Truss announced the news on a visit to one of the UK’s major ports, Teesport, alongside Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen. The mayor has consistently championed freeports, and other ports which have expressed an interest in the bidding process include the Port of Tyne, Milford Haven and London Gateway.

Truss said: “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 31 October. 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.”

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said: “Teesport played a crucial role in this nation’s historic trading past, and is key to our great trading future. Creating a freeport right here would turbocharge jobs and growth, bringing investment into the region and making us a global hub of enterprise and innovation.”

Jason Millett, Mace’s chief operating officer for consultancy, said: “Freeports already exist in many countries right around the world and it’s great that the UK now has plans to catch up. I look forward to hearing more about the government’s proposals and locations selected over the next few months, and hope that they decided to 'supercharge' them by combining them with enterprise zones which is the recommendation our report put forward.”

The newly appointed Freeports Advisory Panel Members are:

  • Tim Morris, CEO of UK Major Ports Group
  • Richard Ballantyne, CEO of British Ports Association
  • Dr. Meredith Crowley, Trade Economist, University of Cambridge
  • Henry Overman, Professor of Economic Geography, London School of Economics
  • Dan Korski, CBE, Founder, Public
  • Dr Eamonn Butler, Director, Adam Smith Institute
  • Tom Clougherty, Head of Tax, Centre for Policy Studies
  • Emma Jones, MBE, Enterprise Nation Founder
  • Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor

Click here to download the Mace report on Freeports, the ultimate boost for Britain’s economy.

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