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UK Freeports



1. Freeports are designated areas where goods can be imported without paying customs duties. Customs duty becomes payable only when the goods, possibly after processing, enter the domestic market – and none are payable if they are re-exported. They may also enjoy other tax and planning advantages and reduced bureaucracy. There are currently no freeports in the UK, after the legislation establishing their use expired in 2012 (one exists on the Isle of Man, which is a UK Crown-dependent territory).  

2. In February, the Government announced a ten-week consultation on freeports. It aims to create up to ten freeports which would have different customs rules to the rest of the country, be innovation hubs, boost global trade, attract inward investment, and increase productivity. It is seeking a model that could work for rail, sea and airports and outlined an accompanying package of proposals including tariff flexibility, simplified customs processes, tax measures, planning reforms, and targeted funding. The Government is committed to announcing locations this year so that the first freeport can be opened in 2021.  

3. This inquiry will examine: the Government’s freeport proposals; how freeports will align with the UK’s trade and investment priorities; the criteria for choosing freeports; how freeports will contribute to economic regeneration; and potential negative impacts of freeports, including how these could be mitigated. 

Submit Written Evidence 

The Committee welcomes submissions on some, or all, of the following questions. Submissions should be made using the UK Freeports inquiry page.  

Terms of Reference 

  • What benefits might freeports bring to the UK – and how should these be measured? 
  • What negative impacts could freeports have – and how might these be mitigated?
  • How comprehensive is the package of measures proposed by the Government in its freeport model – and what others, if any, should be considered? How should these measures be adapted for different locations?   
  • Are the proposed criteria for selecting sites to become freeports appropriate? When evaluating proposals, should greater weight be given to certain criteria? What role will the Department for International Trade play in this process? 
  • What impact could freeports have on the overall regeneration and expansion of industrial areas? Is there a risk of displacement and economic disadvantage to areas not selected – and how could this be mitigated? 
  • What can the UK learn, and what competition will it face, from established freeports around the world?