EU freeports caution doesn't impact UK

The Port of Tyne is one of a number of British ports interested in becoming a freeport. Photo: Port of Tyne

The EU's cautionary stance on freeports has no bearing on the UK's development of freeports and how they will operate, a ports trade association has said. As the UK navigates the Brexit transition period and the UK government analyses responses from its public consultation on freeports, the EU maintains a watchful eye on freeports in Europe as part of new rules governing seaports and following a European Parliament study into 'Money laundering and tax evasion risks in free ports' in October 2018.

However, Mark Simmonds, head of policy & external affairs at the British Ports Association (BPA), exclusively told Port Strategy that while the EU has around 80 freeports and therefore is reasonable to examine their impact, he doesn't "anticipate the EU having any influence over how UK freeports will operate". He explained: "UK freeports are bespoke to the UK and incorporate planning as well as customs rules." "Rigorous safeguards"

On the subject of handling illegal practises within freeports, he added: "Many of the customs benefits of freeports can be achieved through existing processes which have rigorous safeguards in place to prevent crime - we would expect that to be the case for freeports too. " Earlier this month, the BPA, which has called for maximum ambition in the introduction of freeports and for them to include new tax, planning and development rules, said it remains concerned by the "arbitrary cap" on freeports set by the government. It believes that by only selecting up to 10 freeports, the potential of the UK freeports model may be compromised.

The UK Major Ports Group (UKMPG) has also voiced the same concern, stating: "The Government's cap of 10 freeports lacks evidence and risks limiting the benefits of freeports.

It would be far better if the Government was guided by the number of compelling proposals rather than an arbitrary limit."

Ports and port operators which have expressed interest in the government's freeports plan include PD Ports, the Port of Dover, Associated British Ports (ABP), the Port of Tyne and the Port of Blyth.

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