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South East could deliver Government’s Freeport ambitions

The prospect of 10 new Freeports in the UK signals a strong commitment by the Government to support the country’s international trade, according to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has announced a new Freeports Advisory Panel to advise the Government on the establishment of up to 10 Freeports.

The Government believes the Freeports could transform the country’s ports and airports just as freedoms transformed London’s Docklands in the 1980s, in order to sustain the country’s international trade position after the UK leaves the EU.

Freeports are normally an area of a country where its taxes and tariffs do not apply, allowing companies to import goods, store them and re-export them without paying tax in the country. Companies can also undertake manufacturing or other work on imported components and re-export them without paying UK duties. The most successful Freeports around the world attract businesses and create jobs for local people through liberalised planning laws.

Ports understood to have expressed an interest in the bidding process include London Gateway in Essex.

Commenting the announcement, Christian Brodie, Chair of SELEP, said the South East’s ports are uniquely placed, and the Government could think big and recognise the potential for the Thames Estuary and Channel ports to become Freeports.

Christian said: “We have made a success of our Enterprise Zones and are confident there would be the ambition among our port owners and their customers to examine how we could establish a network of Freeports locally.

“The nine ports in our area are the lifeblood of the UK, each supporting specific industries and keeping trade flowing between us and the rest of the world.

“I am sure that many of them would be interested in examining the opportunities presented by Freeport status. As a Local Enterprise Partnership we will be seeking to ensure that the business voice of our ports is heard loudly in Westminster and Whitehall.”

Designating Freeports locally would also reinforce the Government’s commitment to the area following its creation of the Thames Estuary Growth Board and the creation of a Cabinet-level Ministerial Champion for the region.

Announcing the Freeports Advisory Panel, 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 October 31. 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.”