Freeports – a gateway to fresh trading optimism?

February 3, 2021

As the UK’s trading landscape continues to evolve following Brexit, a bid to create the country’s first and largest freeport on Teesside represents huge potential for fresh investment, thousands of jobs and the opportunity for the region to “once again be charting a course for the rest of the UK to follow”, says Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.

Over the past three years, I have done all I can to bring a freeport to Teesside.

A freeport would be truly transformational for our region, bringing investment and creating thousands of good-quality, well-paid jobs for local people.

When I started out on this journey, many thought it couldn’t be done; they believed the Government of the time was against the idea and that no administration would make such a seismic change in customs and trade policy.

But then we voted to leave the European Union and had a Prime Minister who was a strong supporter of freeports and who recognised the advantages of free trade zones.

The deal agreed between the UK and the European Union will allow us to continue to trade freely, while delivering on the referendum pledge to regain control of our money, laws and borders.

The UK can now look outwards once again as a truly global trading nation, freed from the shackles of the European Union’s inward looking, anti-free-trade policies.

A freeport is a great example of this.

A freeport would allow Teesworks – the UK’s largest industrial zone being built on land that includes the former Redcar SSI UK steelworks site – to benefit from a wide package of tax reliefs, simplified customs procedures, streamlined planning processes and Government support to promote regeneration and innovation.

We have consulted with industrial firms and other businesses to make sure all businesses, whether they rely on the River Tees or not, will benefit.

This was a policy made on Teesside for Teesside.

In June 2019, I published a 100-page White Paper setting out how these new low-tax zones could work in the UK, showing a freeport in Teesside could create 32,000 new good-quality, well-paid jobs and boost the economy by £2 billion over 25 years.

The work we did was enthusiastically taken up by Boris Johnson, who announced he would roll out the policy nationwide in his first speech as Prime Minister.

Getting this far has not always been an easy journey, but we’re nearly there and are at the front of the line to secure freeport status in the coming months.