Boris Johnson mulls plans for ten new freeports to boost post-Brexit investment
Boris Johnson is set to launch a consultation on the creating of ten new freeports in a bid to boost post-Brexit investment.
Ministers said they hoped to announce the locations of the new free trade zones later this year, with the first set to open for business in 2021.
It comes as the UK looks to create its own trading strategy ahead of the UK's exit from EU rules at the end of the Brexit transition period in January 2021.
The plans - first raised by Boris Johnson during his Conservative leadership campaign - would mean goods entering the new zones would not attract tarrifs unless they left for the UK's domestic market.
Any goods which were re-exported would not face any duty, while shipments of raw materials would be exempt from taxes until they were produced into a final product.
The zones, which could also be established inland, will be set up in former industrial communities in a bid to "supercharge" economic growth, Chief Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak has said.
"Freeports will unleash the potential in our proud historic ports, boosting and regenerating communities across the UK," he added.
"They will attract new business, spreading jobs, investment and opportunity to town and cities up and down the country.
"This is all part of our mission as an open, outward-looking country, championing global free trade with vibrant freeports that work for all of the UK."
But the plans came under fire from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who said the proposals were a "revival of a failed Thatcherite plan from the 1980s designed to cut away at regulation and our tax base."
“There is very little solid evidence that so-called freeports create jobs or boost economic growth, showing this up as another ideological move from a far-right government," he said.
"This plan only represents a levelling-up for the super-rich, who will use freeports to hoard assets and avoid taxes while the rest of us feel the effects of under-funded public services.”
Meanwhile, the Liberal DemocratsSarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat's business and trade spokesperson, said: "No number of freeports can replace the economic benefits of seamless and tarrif-free trade with Europe.
"Freeports don't create new jobs or business opportunities, while their special administrative status makes them a tax-avoidance and money-laundering risk.
"The country needs real investment, not white elephants like freeports."