Businesses unsure how freeports will work but believe they will boost trade and attract investment

Tue 13 Jul 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News


Almost two-thirds of businesses are unclear about how England’s eight freeports will work, according to a survey of 500 businesses.

The poll, by law firm Womble Bond Dickinson and reported in the Times, features businesses located in regions where the new freeports will be situated, with turnovers ranging from under £10m to more than £100m.

Despite their confusion over how they will operate, almost half of respondents agreed that freeports would boost trade and over two-thirds said they would help attract overseas investment.

About half of the businesses surveyed intend to create new skilled jobs in the freeports within two years. 

What are freeports?

Freeports are areas that benefit from a range of measures designed to promote regeneration including tariff exemptions and easier planning permissions, the BBC reports.

Eighteen bids were received and eight freeports were announced in March. The locations are:

  • East Midlands Airport
  • Felixstowe and Harwich
  • Humber region
  • Liverpool City Region
  • Plymouth
  • Solent
  • Thames
  • Teesside

Global ambition

In March, the IOE&IT welcomed the new freeports as a tool to encourage regeneration of industrial and commercial land and housing.

However, it also said that the government could go further with its plans by providing a global network linking together freeports in all the major and growing economies.

IOE&IT director general, Marco Forgione, said: “A globally connected network of UK freeports – clearly tasked with creating high-skill, digital-first, manufacturing and service focused hubs – can turbo-charge UK plc in a way this government so ardently desires”.