Ports where goods are imported without tariffs could provide opportunity for region, but plan depends on leaving the Customs Union
More than 17,500 jobs could be created if free ports were created and linked to enterprise zones on Teesside, a new report says.
The ports of Tees and Hartlepool are among seven “supercharged free ports” in the North that could be created after the UK leaves the European Union, according to a report for construction firm Mace compiled by former Treasury economist Chris Walker.
The moves – which would depend on leaving the EU Customs Union, something many business leaders in the North East oppose – have already won support from leading business and political figures on Teesside, including Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen and a number of MPs.
The plans would see the ports designated as geographical areas that allow goods to be imported into a country without paying import tariffs and brought together with enterprise zones, locally designated areas subject to tax relief to encourage private investment.
Doing so would boost international trade by £12bn and add £9bn a year to the UK’s GDP. It could create more than 17,500 jobs across Teesside.
Steve Gillingham, director for the North at Mace, said: “Transforming the North’s ports into Supercharged Free Ports, as this report suggests, would ensure the region is well placed to drive post-Brexit growth and help rebalance the UK economy.
“This would not only drive industrial and economic development, but also create thousands of jobs which would help in turn to reduce inequality across the region.”
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill said: “I very much welcome the proposed introduction of a ‘supercharged’ free port covering Tees and Hartlepool. As we leave the EU it is vital that we maximise our global trading potential. There is plenty of talk about rebalancing the UK economy towards the North, but not enough action.
“Ports like Hartlepool have bags of potential and the proposal could lead to new opportunities for local people, as well as new jobs, apprenticeships and investment.”
As well as the Tees and Hartlepool, the Mace report proposes free ports on the Tyne, at Immingham and Grimsby, Hull and the Humber, Liverpool and Manchester Airport.
Support for the idea of free ports is growing in the North East, with the Policy North pressure group, Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen and a number of MPs speaking out on the issue.
Polling linked to the Mace report also suggests public backing for the scheme, with almost 90% of those questioned in favour of the creation of free ports in the region.
Source: www.gazettelive.co.uk, 18 June 2018