The freeport bidding process has been opened by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Seen as an opportunity to “turbo-charge post-Brexit trade,” boosting the economy and creating thousands of jobs, at least seven will be created in England – with the first next year.
Designed to attract major domestic and international investment, freeports will benefit from a wide package of tax reliefs, simplified customs procedures, a streamlined planning processes to boost redevelopment and government support to promote regeneration and innovation.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, said: “Our new freeports will create national hubs for trade, innovation and commerce, levelling up communities across the UK, creating new jobs, and turbo-charging our economic recovery.
“As we embrace our new opportunities as an independent trading nation, we want to deliver lasting prosperity to the British people and freeports will be key to delivering this.”
An ambitious new customs model will draw on international best practice, and build on existing arrangements. A firm can import goods into a freeport without paying tariffs, process them into a final product and then either pay a tariff on the sales into the domestic market, or export without paying UK tariffs.
Tax relief will include land purchases, constructing or renovating buildings, investing in new plant and machinery assets and on employer National Insurance contributions.
Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick, said: “Our freeports will be international centres for trade and investment, powering regeneration, job creation and entrepreneurship. I am delighted that ports, councils and their private sector partners can now apply for freeport status – with all the special opportunities it will bring to their communities and the country.”
As anticipated, the government is working with the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to establish at least one freeport in each nation of the UK, in addition to those allocated in England.
It has been welcomed by the industry, with the head of the UK’s largest port complex by tonnage, ABP Humber’s Simon Bird, only outlining on Friday how a “compelling bid” was being put forward for the estuary.
Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the British Ports Association, said: “The launch of the freeports bidding process in England today represents a huge step forward in the establishment of fair and inclusive freeports in the UK. We are pleased that Government recognises and supports ports as drivers of economic development and prosperity. Ports, and the wider maritime industry, are eager to play their part in the solution to national economic recovery and the regeneration of coastal communities.”
Tim Morris, chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, said: “We welcome the launch of the Freeports Bidding Prospectus. Port operators all across the UK are developing ambitious proposals to respond to the freeports opportunity. The UK Major Ports Group and the port operators themselves look forward to working closely with the Government to build ever stronger gateways for the UK’s global trade, boost prosperity for coastal and inland communities and maintain high standards.”
A bid deadline of Friday, February 5 has been set, with submissions to be assessed by a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government chaired panel in March, with decisions announced in the spring.
The prospectus is now available online.