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Free ports vision needs clarity

Freeport vision could unlock trade opportunities but plans need clarity

The government’s proposal to establish ten Freeports in the UK has the potential to unlock significant opportunities for international trade. Key questions still need to be addressed to prevent a host of issues as the policy is implemented, as Zoe McLernon, Multimodal Policy Manager at Logistics UK (Formerly FTA), explains: “While FTA’s members support the concept of Freeports – since they provide new opportunities for international trade, economic activity, innovation and efficiency – we are urging government to provide additional details on its vision for their establishment in the UK.

No miracle cure

This detail will be vital to addressing any potential issues with fairness and competition, planning processes, friction with Northern Ireland Protocol, custom processes and investment into infrastructure. Freeports are no miracle cure for economic malaise, but could have a major role in economic restart and recovery. “The government should consider a multi-site concept, or virtual Freeport zones, to account for businesses and industries that

do not already operate in the direct vicinity of a port, airport or railway terminal; this would provide a corridor of opportunity for multiple industries. Additional infrastructure will also play a vital role in the development and sustainability of

each Freeport; we ask for flexibility and freedoms with planning processes to make this possible. We would like to see government consider a multimodal approach to grant users access via all modes.”

Clarity and definitions

Clear definition of Freeports is needed as

well as clear parameters, in addition to economic assessments. Firms involved in international trade have stressed the need for any proposed customs and tax arrangements to add value and benefits beyond those available in existing customs regulations. “FTA does have some concerns over the compatibility of Freeports with the NI

Protocol. If a Freeport is considered in NI it may present a conflict with EU level playing field rules. ✷