Should the UK establish Freeports?

Wed 8 Jan 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham


Back in August we blogged about that the government was considering establishing new ‘Freeports’ as part of its plans for post-Brexit Britain. The International Trade secretary, Liz Truss, had just set up a Freeports Advisory Panel to advise on the establishment of 10 freeports around the UK.

At the time she 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. 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.”

According to an article in Parliamentary Review (04/01/19):

“Freeports operate outside of normal tax and tariff rules in the country where they are based, allowing the import, manufacture and re-export of goods entirely free of enforced checks, paperwork and tariffs. Companies operating in such areas are often subject to reduced VAT rates and lower employment tax.”

However, the shadow trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, warned at the time that Freeports would “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 Government now has a mandate

With the Conservatives since winning a parliamentary majority in the December election, they now have a mandate to do Brexit and thereafter to shape the UK’s independent trade policy.

As such, the possibility of Freeports forming part of the UK’s future trade infrastructure is greater than it has been since previous legislation allowing for them to be established elapsed in 2012.

There are 80 Freeports in the EU already and many operate as hubs for innovation in cross border trade.

With the UK potentially set to be facing a significantly increased number of cross border exports and imports that are liable to new paperwork, checks and tariffs following Brexit, Freeports could act as a ‘softener’, representing potential ‘safe harbours’ for continued, frictionless trade into the EU.

What do you think?

Do you think establishing Freeports should be a part of the UK’s future trade policy?

If so, we are always looking for thoughts and insights from our members to feed into government and to feature across our content, including our blogs and our quarterly journal ‘World Trade Matters’.

If you’ve got a strong opinion on Freeports or anything else relating to Brexit and Global Trade, please get in touch by contacting either or 01733404400.