Rishi Sunak discusses freeports announcement

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Teesside Freeport began operations on Friday 19 November and is set to be “at the forefront of green energy, manufacturing, and innovation,” according to a statement from the British Government. A freeport or “free zone” is an area that is inside the geographic boundary of a country, but which is legally considered outside the country for customs purposes.

Goods brought into the freeport, therefore, don’t face import tariffs.

Sometimes businesses operating within free ports receive other incentives, such as tax breaks.

Eligible businesses that base themselves in tax sites at Teesside freeport can benefit from several tax incentives including an enhanced Capital Allowance; a Structures and Buildings Allowance; a Business Rates relief; and a Stamp Duty Land Tax relief.

Teesside has also had a customs site designated which means that businesses that base themselves in the site can benefit from the customs facilitation – including tariff suspension, exemption, and deferral.

David C Bannerman, former Conservative MEP for East of England, welcomed the opening and labelled it “another Brexit benefit.”

He tweeted: “This is excellent – the first job creating Freeport launched in Teesside. One of many. Another Brexit benefit.”

The Government has estimated that Teesside Freeport will create more than 18,000 jobs and provide £3.2 billion boosts to local communities over 5 years.

The Freeport has already secured a multimillion-pound investment from GE Renewables to build a new offshore wind blade manufacturing plant which they estimate will deliver up to 750 manufacturing jobs and a further 1,500 roles in the supply chain.

Other freeports are expected to open. At Budget, in October 2021, the Chancellor announced that the first tax sites will be in Humber, Tees and Thames.

Locations selected to progress to the next stages of designation are East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe & Harwich (known as Freeport East), Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth & South Devon, Solent, Teesside and Thames. 

In a statement, Lord Frost said: “Having left the European Union we now have the freedom to do things differently, including setting up new freeports to turbo-charge our trade with the world’s fastest-growing markets.

“Today’s announcement is great news for Teesside and it shows that we are maximising the opportunities of Brexit to create well-paid jobs and drive growth right across the UK.

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“As well as more freeports, we want to go further and faster to create a competitive, regulatory environment which supports innovation and boosts inward investment.”

Freeports were used as examples of opportunities the UK will benefit from after leaving the EU.

In 2019, the then MP Rishi Sunak said: “The EU is the only place where these [freeports] really don’t exist.”

There are around 80 free zones within the EU.

Until 2012 there were five free ports within the UK until the government allowed the domestic laws that set up those ports to expire.

However, EU state aid rules (which prohibit EU governments from providing support to certain companies over their competitors) limit the range of tax incentives an EU member can settle in its freeport.

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