Categories: EuropePublished On: 05.09.2022571 words2.9 min read

Wales’ first freeport to open next year after Welsh and UK governments come to deal

MV Stena Superfast X leaving Holyhead. Picture by Reading Tom (CC BY 2.0)

The Welsh and UK Governments are today inviting applications for Wales’ first freeport, which should be up and running by summer 2023.

Welsh Ministers said they had agreed to support freeport policies in Wales following the UK Government’s agreement that it would meet the Welsh Government’s demands that both governments would act as a “partnership of equals” to establish freeports in Wales.

In addition, UK Ministers also agreed to provide up to £26 million of non-repayable starter funding for any freeport established in Wales – the same as with the deals offered to each of the English and Scottish freeports.

Initially Wales was being offered just £8m to set up a Freeport. Wales’ former Welsh Secretary, Simon Hart, had also threatened to impose a Freeport on Wales without an agreement from the Welsh Government.

A Welsh freeport will be a special lower-tax zone with the benefits of simplified customs procedures, relief on customs duties, tax benefits, and development flexibility.

Wales’ Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:

“As an intrinsic part of our rich industrial history and the engine room of our economy, ports have huge potential to accelerate future industries which support net zero – from off-shore energy to advanced manufacturing.

“Thanks to the agreement we have reached with the UK government, we are launching a Freeports Programme in Wales which offers an opportunity to harness Wales’ abundant economic potential domestically and internationally by reimagining the role of ports, whilst promoting fair work and sustainability.

“The Welsh Government believes a better deal for workers is essential to a fairer and more equal Wales. So, I am looking for bids that break the industry ceiling on net zero standards, exemplify the high labour standards that promote fair work, and articulate a shared vision formed by long-lasting partnerships which genuinely involve all social partners.

“I look forward to considering innovative bids which deliver meaningful economic and social benefits for Wales.

Trade unions

The Welsh Government said they had worked with the UK Government to design a freeport model which will deliver on three main objectives which must be met by applicants:

  • Promote regeneration and high-quality job creation.
  • Establish the Freeport as a national hub for global trade and investment across the economy.
  • Foster an innovative environment.
  • The Welsh Government has a clear Economic Mission to transform the Welsh economy to be more prosperous, equal and green than ever before.

They said that they had “successfully argued” that a Welsh freeport will need to operate in a manner that aligns with the Welsh Government’s policies on fair work and social partnership.

“This includes workers being fairly rewarded, heard and represented, and can progress in a secure, healthy, and inclusive working environment, where their rights are respected,” they said.

As a result, the Freeports Programme in Wales includes made-in-Wales policies, such as:

  • The inclusion of the Welsh Government’s Economic Contract.
  • Trade union involvement in freeport governance structures.
  • An emphasis on the real living wage and lifting the wage floor.
  • Setting expectations around employers’ treatment of employer national insurance contributions.
  • A Welsh freeport will need to operate within the Welsh legislative framework on sustainability and well-being – The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 – and the Welsh Government’s net zero commitments.

Bids . . . .

. . . . see article on the Nation Cymru website here

Wales’ first freeport to open next year