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Any Port in a Storm?

What are Freeports and why are they important?

Wednesday, November 15, 2023
10 mins

Any Port in a Storm?

What are Freeports and why are they important?


'Freeports are designated areas in the UK that have special tax and customs rules designed to boost trade and investment. They are typically located near ports or airports and offer businesses a range of benefits, including:

  • Lower taxes: Businesses in freeports can benefit from a number of tax breaks, such as reduced tariffs on imported goods, exemptions from business rates, and tax relief on capital investment.
  • Simplified customs procedures: Freeports have their own customs procedures, which are designed to be faster and simpler than the procedures used in the rest of the country. This can make it easier and cheaper for businesses to import and export goods.
  • Government support: The UK government provides a range of support to businesses in freeports, including grants, loans, and training.

The UK government argues that freeports will create jobs, boost trade, and help to "level up" the economy by investing in areas that have been left behind. However, freeports have also been criticized for a number of reasons, including:

  • They could lead to job losses in other parts of the country, as businesses relocate to take advantage of the tax breaks and other benefits.
  • They could be used for tax avoidance and money laundering.
  • They could damage the environment, as they may encourage businesses to import goods that would otherwise be produced in the UK.
  • They could lead to a decline in wages, as businesses may be able to hire staff at lower rates in areas with high unemployment.

The government has said that it will take steps to mitigate these risks, but concerns remain. As a result, freeports remain a controversial policy in the UK. Eight are operational in England. Two are proposed for Scotland.'

Colette Walker of the ISP will be hosting a Twitter 'space' next Wednesday (Nov 22nd) at 7.30pm to explore the topic and explain why we should all be paying very close attention to what's happening. The following links have been gathered from a variety of tweets highlighting the upcoming discussion and a public meeting to be held in Edinburgh on Sunday 26th: (6) Freeports Community Group (@frreeports) / X (twitter.com)

Further information

Dr Mark McNaught interviews Professor Alf Baird on the topic of the proposed Tory 'Green Freeports'.

(7) Freeports: A Clear and Present Danger to Scotland - YouTube

'The government is proposing that there should be at least ten new freeports in the UK. These were so useless the last time that they were tried in the UK that the programme was abandoned, by David Cameron. But this time Rishi Sunak is pushing them harder. This time they will create ten new internal borders in the UK, which are the last thing that we need, and will undermine the security of employees who work there whilst being notoriously open to criminal abuse because of the light-touch regulation that they involve. In this short video I explain why they really are not a good idea.'

(Richard Murphy is a chartered accountant. After training with what is now KPMG he established his a firm of accountants in London, of which he was subsequently senior partner, in parallel with a career as an entrepreneur and company director which lasted until his early 40s. He then moved to a career in campaigning and academia. He co-founded the Tax Justice Network in 2003, the Green New Deal in 2008, the Fair Tax Mark in 2013 and the Corporate Accountability Network in 2019. From 2015 to 2020 he was Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City, University of London and is now Visiting Professor of Accounting at Sheffield University Management School. His best known book is ‘The Joy of Tax’.)'

(7) Why Freeports are a terrible idea - YouTube

'...the Scottish Government’s Green Freeports strategy will only have marginal economic benefits, if any. That’s because we’ll still be stuck with dependence on outdated obsolete ports mostly in unsuitable locations and calling them a ‘Green Freeport’ won’t alter that one iota.'

Alf Baird’s view on Freeports. – YOURS FOR SCOTLAND (wordpress.com)

The UK Government site explaining status/development in England's 8 Freeports:

'Freeports are special areas within the UK’s borders where different economic regulations apply. By delivering investment on specific sites benefitting from tax and customs incentives, Freeports will create thousands of high-quality jobs in some of our most disadvantaged communities. These sites have been carefully selected for their suitability for development by local authorities and key private partners and sit within an outer boundary, which represents the geographical location within which the benefits of Freeports are targeted and does not in itself confer any special tax, customs or other status.'

Freeports - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Keep Updated

Freeports Community Group

What do you know about Freeports and the impact they will have on your local community and Scotland?

(6) Freeports Community Group (@frreeports) / X (twitter.com)

Follow Colette Walker via Twitter for more detail and updates:

(4) Colette Walker (@coletteisp) / X (twitter.com)

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