Categories: British Ports Association, EuropePublished On: 08.10.2020560 words3.1 min read
The BPA supports an ambitious Freeport programme that recognises the critical role ports play in national and regional economies. Freeports are areas with special rules designed to facilitate new trade and expedite planning and job-boosting development.
Following the government’s 2019 announcement that they would be establishing 10 Freeports around the UK, a public consultation has been launched on their vision for UK Freeports. The consultation outlines possible customs rules, as well as tax, planning, regeneration, innovation and governance. It does not outline a rigid model but provides some background on what could be included in a future UK Freeport.
This announcement has been welcomed by the BPA and we are pleased that ministers have recognised the vital economic role that ports play in facilitating 95% of Britain’s international trade. The BPA has promoted the concept of ‘port zones’ for some time and is also part of the Government’s Freeports Advisory Panel. We look forward to further exploring how ports can support national growth and prosperity.

What are Freeports?

In a traditional sense, a Freeport is an area that is exempt from customs duties and tariffs to enable added value processes to take place. For example, duty is only paid on goods upon leaving the Freeport area as a finished product and entering the UK market.
Following an announcement in 2019 to establish 10 Freeports in the UK, government is currently consulting on what the UK Freeport model should be, in order to maximise economic benefit and recharge coastal communities.

HMG Freeports Consultation

Within our response to the Freeports consultation, the BPA has called for maximum ambition in the introduction of Freeports and for them to include new tax, planning and development rules. These zones could be overlaid with customs-free zone designations that support sustainable port development and wider economic activity, allowing ports to fast-track developments and have certainty about future activities. If UK ports are going to compete with their European counterparts, the Government must push forward with our Freeports concept to fast track planning decisions and limit the impacts of environmental designations. With the right conditions, ports can further grow the economy and push regions forward.

Port Zones UK

The BPA is a member of a trade campaign coalition formed in 2019, called Port Zones UK. Port Zones UK is a group of British airport and seaport operators whose aim is to promote regional growth centred on key UK transport hubs, through the designation of enhanced ‘Enterprise, Development and Free Trade Zones’. The founding organisations authored a report calling on the Government to grant special economic status to airports and seaports to stimulate international investment, reshore manufacturing and ultimately lower prices for consumers in a post-Brexit Britain.

Eversheds Sutherland

In 2018, Eversheds Sutherland LLP supplied the British Ports Association with an advice note regarding port enterprise and development zones. The document explores the envisaged planning/environmental benefits of such zones being workable within the existing legislative framework.