THE sites for the eight freeports in England have been revealed as part of the Chancellor’s Budget.
Pledged in the Conservative Party 2019 manifesto, Rishi Sunak announced that Tilbury, which on the Thames, will be one of the eight, with the others being East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, the Humber region, the Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, and Teesside are all set to benefit from the post-Brexit status.
Mr Sunak said the “special economic zones with different rules to make it easier and cheaper to do business” would come with simpler planning, cheaper customs – with favourable tariffs, VAT or duties – and lower taxes, with “tax breaks to encourage construction, private investment and job creation”.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay, quizzed about freeports by MPs last month, said he had expected the locations to be announced in “the spring”, with the first freeports “ideally … operational by the end of the year”.
The freeport model works by allowing companies to import goods tariff-free and only paying once it is sold into the domestic market, or exporting the final goods without paying UK tariffs.
In 2016, Mr Sunak – before he was given a ministerial role – authored a paper for the pro-free market think tank Centre for Policy Studies calling for freeports to be set up once the UK had left the European Union.
Tim Morris, chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, said “ambitious and exciting bids” had been recognised.
He added: “However, freeports alone are not a silver bullet for addressing deprivation in coastal communities.
“The Government should look at extending some of the low-cost, pro-investment measures in the freeports ‘tool box’ to port areas more widely.”
Further announcements are still expected on freeports within the devolved administration, with the manifesto committing to creating 10 in total in the UK.