The Free Ports Opportunity report, recently published by Rishi Sunak MP, has been praised by Lewes MP Maria Caulfield during Transport Questions in the Commons Chamber.
The report argues that Brexit would provide the UK with a renewed economic freedom, and that the Government should use this opportunity to create Free Ports across the nation.
A Free Port is an area that is inside the geographic boundary of a country, but is considered outside of the country for customs purposes. This means that goods can enter and re-exit the Zone without suffering the usual import procedures and tariffs, which are incurred when products enter the domestic economy.
As a member of the EU and its Customs Union, the UK does not have control over its own trade policy, and consequently is not able to set its own tariffs or customs duties. Any member state of the EU can challenge UK Free Trade Zone incentives and the bureaucracy and red tape of EU regulation is directly disadvantageous to small businesses, instead favouring their larger competitors.
The impact of the EU imposition upon our ports is palpable. In the UK today, there is only one Free Port, based on the Isle of Man. This pales in comparison to the 250 Free Ports enjoyed in the United States.
Ports are already a vital strategic asset for the UK economy, accounting for 96% of all trade volume and 75% of trade value. The report affirms that Free Ports will reduce the import costs of goods and will increase the value of our exports, as well as estimating that Free Ports could create as many as 86,000 new jobs for the UK economy.
Free Ports will further expand an already thriving sector and would stimulate economic growth in the country’s coastal regions and would help rebalance the UK economy away from its centralisation around London. They would also help to promote free trade with the rest of the world and would re-connect Britain with its proud maritime history as a trading nation.
Maria particularly supports this report because it presents a special opportunity for the Newhaven Port. Newhaven is already a busy port, as in 2015 approximately 400,000 tourists and 150,000 vehicles had used the crossing, an increase of 50% from previous years. However, Newhaven’s recent connectivity to the main-lines of the railway and its road improvements signify that it would be an attractive option to carry freight towards London.
Maria commented: “When I travelled to Dieppe in May of last year to discuss the Newhaven-Dieppe crossing with the Transmanche User Group, they showed a keen interest to use the Newhaven Port for freight traffic.”
“After we exit the EU, the Free Ports initiative would present a fantastic opportunity for Newhaven to evolve into an increasingly industrial port, which would subsequently boost the economic output and employment opportunities in the area.”
“I put this to Transport Minister John Hayes during Transport Questions this week, when I asked him to outline the possibility that this might be taken forward for ports such as Newhaven.”
Responding, the Minister confirmed that he would be meeting with the author of the report, and strongly consider the roles of ports post-Brexit as part of the Maritime Growth Study that he had previously initiated.
Confirming his thoughts on British ports post-brexit, the Minister said: “My ambitions are, as ever Mr Speaker, measured and modest. I see nothing more than Britannia to rule the waves.”
To watch Maria’s full question to the Transport Minister, please click here