Free Ports Could Create “Thousands of Jobs” after Brexit
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is on Teesside to announce plans for up to 10 UK free ports. Ports groups have given a cautious welcome to plans for post-Brexit free ports which the Government says could create “thousands of jobs”.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss used a visit to Teesside to say that the Government plans to create “the world’s most advanced free port model” as soon as possible.
Free ports are areas inside the UK geographically, but legally outside of the UK customs territory. Once the UK leaves the EU, seaports and airports across the UK will be invited to bid to become one of up to 10 free ports with the aspiration of increasing trade with new markets across the world.
Ms Truss said: “What we’re talking about here is attracting new jobs into the country as a whole by doing things differently – and not being subject to some of the bureaucracy and rules that have held businesses back.
“I speak to lots of businesses frustrated by the level of red tape and I also think this area with its specific skills in engineering, onshoring and wind turbine production – and the technology around ports themselves would all be opportunities for Teesside specifically.
“We transformed London’s Docklands since the 1980s into Canary Wharf by giving that area new freedoms to do things differently – it’s now one of the world’s main trading centres. I think we can do that on Teesside. I absolutely do.”
Meanwhile, Labour has warned free ports risk eroding workers’ rights – and that a lack of regulation could benefit money launderers and tax evaders. There have also been warnings that free ports could simply move jobs from one part of the country to another.
Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said: “Freeports and free enterprise zones risk companies shutting up shop in one part of the country in order to exploit tax breaks elsewhere, and, worst of all, lower employment rights.
“The British people did not vote for this new administration and they certainly did not vote to see their jobs and livelihoods threatened in favour of gifting further tax breaks to big companies and their bosses.”
During the Tory leadership campaign, Mr Johnson pledged to create “about six” free ports, while the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak wrote a paper in November 2016 on free ports for the Centre for Policy Studies think tank.
The Department for International Trade will also launch a Free Ports Advisory Panel which will include ministers from the Department for International Trade and the Treasury.