Rishi Sunak – 2020 Statement on Freeports

Below is the text of the statement made by Rishi Sunak, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in the House of Commons on 10 February 2020.

Today the Government have launched a consultation on freeports policy, allocation and governance.

A freeport is commonly defined as a place inside a country’s land border but where different customs rules apply. Countries around the world have successfully used freeports to drive investment and prosperity.

The creation of up to 10 freeports around the UK was a flagship policy in the Government manifesto. Since the election, HM Treasury has moved at pace with the Department for International Trade, the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to develop an ambitious set of policy proposals. Freeports will boost trade, jobs and investment with a view to building innovative business clusters that benefit the local area and level up the economy across the UK.

At the centre of our new freeports policy is an ambitious new customs model, drawing on international best practice. The model will improve upon both the UK’s existing customs facilitations and the freeports the UK previously had. We are also consulting on which tax incentives businesses in freeports could benefit from, potentially including business rates reliefs, capital allowances, research and development tax credits, and reductions in national insurance and stamp duty land tax.

Ports consistently flag that planning regulations restrict their expansion. Both the Government and local planning authorities can support freeports through planning options including permitted development rights and zonal planning, which would help to simplify planning processes, accelerate development in relation to freeports and support the wider regeneration of nearby areas.​
Freeports also have the potential to be dynamic environments which enable innovators, start-ups, businesses and regulators to generate and test new ideas and technologies. Freeports could be used as sandboxes in which innovative technology and processes could be trialled.

Freeports will be a cornerstone of the Government plan to level up opportunity across the country, building on existing schemes such as the towns fund and the coastal communities fund, alongside other existing strategies across infrastructure, skills and dedicated trade and investment support. They will allow us to drive forward investment and regeneration in some of the most deprived areas in the UK, delivering highly-skilled jobs for people across the country.

Freeports will be selected through a fair, transparent and competitive process, and will be expected to collaborate closely with key partners across the public and private sectors.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is responsible for place-based strategy and regeneration in England and will lead on the domestic delivery of freeports, working alongside the Department for International Trade, which leads on attracting inward investment across the whole of the UK, and the Department for Transport, which leads on port strategy, policy, relationships and the wider transport network. HMRC will maintain control over the authorisation of customs sites within a freeport, to ensure sites are compliant with necessary security requirements. We will also work closely with the devolved Administrations to support the development of devolved policy proposals which allow the creation of freeports in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We now need to understand how these proposals can most effectively support ports, businesses and communities in all parts of the UK. The “Freeports Consultation: Boosting Trade, Jobs and Investment Across the UK” [CP222] has been laid in Parliament. Copies are available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office, and also at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/freeports-consultation

The Consultation will close on 20 April.