New plans unveiled by the UK government suggests that up to 10 free ports (also known as free-trade zones) could be established following the country’s exit from the European Union (EU).
The UK’s port of Tyne is an advocate of free ports and believes that they present the best compromise arrangement if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. “We welcome the announcement from the Trade Secretary and look forward to progressing our free port application,” said Matt Beeton, the port’s ceo.
The North East port added that the concept has proved successful in the USA, China and Dubai and will bring the most benefit to manufacturers in the region seeking to attract new investment with quick routes to global markets.
Beeton continued: “The Government’s Free Ports Advisory Panel needs to consider the complex needs of manufacturers like Komatsu, Nissan and others and create solutions that safeguard jobs and stimulate further foreign investment.
“We strongly believe a free port covering the region’s advanced manufacturing cluster and key transport nodes like the port of Tyne has the potential to supercharge regional growth by unlocking post-Brexit opportunities in new and existing supply chains.”
In the November/December 2018 edition of the magazine, HLPFI discussed some of the potential opportunities for ports as a result of the UK’s exit from the EU. Speaking at the time, Natalie Britton, director of quayside operations at the port of Milford Haven in Wales, said: “If free port zones can be established, businesses that fabricate large or complex equipment could base themselves within a free port zone and benefit from being more competitive thanks to smarter regulation, Customs and tax regimes.”
While free ports do exist within the EU, constraints have limited their development, when compared to other regions. They are designed to facilitate international trade, but there are still physical, practical and legal barriers to overcome before they can be established.