The UK government has unveiled plans to establish up to ten ‘free ports’ across Britain after Brexit to boost trade.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said that seaports and airports would be able to apply for ‘free port’ status post Brexit.
During the Tory leadership campaign, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged to open around six ‘free ports’ after Britain leaves the EU.
Free ports enable companies to manufacture, import goods and re-export them without attracting normal tax and customs rules.
Britain had such zones in 2012 at seven places, including Liverpool, Southampton, the Port of Tilbury, the Port of Sheerness and Prestwick Airport.
Truss said that the move would create thousands of jobs and strengthen the economy.
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Even though there are nearly 80 free ports in the EU, mostly in countries which joined the bloc after 2004, the EU says that free ports create unfair competition between companies operating there and those following normal EU rules.
However, those supporting free ports say that post-Brexit, these could bring significant benefits to the UK if it does not have to follow EU rules on subsidies.
Truss said that an advisory panel comprising ministers and experts has been appointed to help deliver the proposal.
Truss, prior to visiting Teesport on Teesside which is a potential free port candidate, said: “Freedoms transformed London’s Docklands in the 1980s, and free ports will do the same for towns and cities across the UK.
“They will join 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 October 31. I look forward to working with the Freeports Advisory Panel to create the world’s most advanced free port model and launch the new ports as soon as possible.”
The government hopes that the ports will help boost trade with the US and developing countries in Asia.
Treasury chief secretary Rishi Sunak said: “We are exploring free ports 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.”