Ports and airports across the country will be able to bid for freeport status, creating tariff-free zones along the lines of Jebel Ali in Dubai and Singapore. It would enable UK manufacturers to import components for goods destined for export without having to pay UK tax on them.
Freeports would exploit the UK’s impending independence from the European Union.
A report by construction firm Mace last year proposed the introduction of a network of seven free ports across the northern of England: Grimsby & Immingham, Hull, Rivers Hull & Humber, Teesport & Hartlepool, Tyne, Liverpool and Manchester airport. Mace is claiming credit for getting freeports onto the political agenda.
Jason Millett, Mace’s chief operating officer for consultancy, said: “Mace’s pioneering report last year kick-started the debate about ‘supercharged’ free ports and clearly laid out the huge potential economic benefits that we could see if they were used strategically to drive investment and growth across the UK.”
International trade secretary Liz 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 31st 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.”
Chief secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak added: “We are exploring freeports as an innovative way to drive growth and support thousands of high-skilled jobs across the UK. We will focus on those areas that could benefit the most, as we look to boost investment and opportunity for communities across the country.”