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Teesside free port announcement hailed as “game changing opportunity”

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen has welcomed the Government’s plans to create up to ten free ports across the UK, with Teesport set to bid to secure one of the coveted zones.

Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss MP revealed the news on a visit to PD Ports Teesport with Mayor Houchen.

The plan is to create a Free Ports Commission that will invite ports and airports across the country to bid to become one of up to ten Free Ports across the country.

Freeports are hubs for business that aim to make trade cheaper by removing checks and paperwork and providing tax benefits with the goal of attracting business and creating jobs in the area.

The news comes following a 19 month campaign by Mayor Houchen to create a free port in the region, which included publishing a 100-page white paper claiming a free port on Teesside could provide a net boost of £2 billion to the UK economy and create up to 32,000 new jobs over 25 years.

Mayor Houchen said: “Free Ports have the potential to turbocharge our regional economy after Brexit, bringing desperately-needed jobs, growth and investment here and making us a magnet for even more international investment.

“This is a game changing opportunity to reshore manufacturing jobs we haven’t seen in this country for decades to the former Redcar steelworks site.

“As we leave the EU and reclaim our place as an open, outward-looking trading nation once more, a Free Port would be beyond transformational for our region, helping us build our current strengths in chemical processing, energy and logistics industries.

“Teesport played a crucial role in this nation’s historic trading past, and is key to our great trading future after we leave the European Union.”

Jerry Hopkinson PD Ports’ chief operating officer and vice chairman and Tees Valley LEP member added: “In recent years Teesport, coupled with one of the deepest rivers in the UK has attracted over £1bn of new investment to the Tees Valley.

“Together the port, river and land provide a compelling and profound infrastructure platform for the development of a revitalised and thriving industrial heartland in the Tees Valley – which sits right at the very centre of the Northern Powerhouse economy.

“The addition of Freeport status will give global investors looking to establish significant manufacturing capacity, within a region that embraces industry and aspires to betterment, a further positive reason to locate to the Tees Valley.”

But the news hasn’t been welcomed by all, with the Labour Party criticising the idea as a backdoor for tax evaders.

Barry Gardiner, trade spokesman for the Labour Party, said: “Free ports and free enterprise zones risk companies shutting up shop in one part of the country in order to exploit tax breaks elsewhere, and, worst of all, lower employment rights.

“We will focus on those areas that could benefit the most, as we look to boost investment and opportunity for communities across the country.”