Most English freeports now operational after government approves Liverpool and East Anglia

Wed 11 Jan 2023
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

Port with ship and freight containers being transported

Liverpool City Region and Freeport East have received the green light from government to begin operations, meaning most of the eight proposed freeports are now open for business.

They follow Plymouth, Solent and Teesside freeports in receiving final government approval.

The latest two freeports will receive up to £25m seed funding each from the government over the next few years, and could potentially retain hundreds of millions in local business rates to stimulate regeneration.

What are freeports?

A key part of its post-Brexit trade policy and levelling up agenda, the government hopes the freeport initiative will drive economic growth across the UK, creating thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of investment in the nominated regions.

Freeports are designated areas in which businesses can benefit from tax incentives and simplified customs procedures.

Freeports for East Midlands Airport, Humber and on the Thames are also in development, and the government remains committed to establishing at least one freeport in each of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as soon as possible.

Liverpool freeport

Liverpool City Region Freeport director John Lucy told the IOE&IT Daily Update that the government’s approval marked a “significant moment” in the region’s history, calling it an “unprecedented opportunity to grow the local and regional economy and maximise its unique international trade advantages to benefit the wider UK economy.”

“LCR Freeport will build upon Liverpool City Region's existing strengths, developing globally recognised clusters for manufacturing, logistics and innovation activities whilst delivering regional net-zero projects,” he added. “LCR Freeport will provide local businesses with new opportunities, become a platform to attract inward investment, stimulate regeneration and create sustainable, fair, high-skilled jobs.”

Louise di Blasi, a customs consultant at the Institute of Export & International Trade who supported SSO International to gain approval to become the first customs site operator in the Liverpool freeport, also hailed the trade and customs benefits that the new site will provide to businesses.

“The customs sites offer a package of customs incentives for businesses with tremendous benefits to the city region’s economy, creating thousands of high-quality jobs and boosting growth and prosperity,” she said.

Freeport East

The government hopes Freeport East will become a world-leading centre for clean energy production delivering thousands of new jobs and generating £5.5bn over ten years.

Freeport East includes two tax sites at the Port of Felixstowe and Harwich International Port as well as four customs sites, reports Echo News.

Scotland and Wales next

With today’s announcement, the majority of English freeports are now in operation.

A further £52m is to be invested in two ‘green’ freeports in Scotland and at least one freeport in Wales, the locations of which are yet to be announced in due course.

Discussions are ongoing to extend the programme to Northern Ireland.

Brexit opportunity

Levelling up minister, Dehenna Davison said freeports maximised the opportunities of leaving the EU to drive growth, boost innovation and encourage investment.

“Freeports are magnets for investments, putting places like the Wirral and Harwich on the global stage and the frontier of innovation,” she said.

“With £25 million of seed funding, these freeports will unlock local expertise and skills to boost key local industries, create jobs and grow our national economy.”