How a Freeport in North Wales can boost the entire UK economy
When I went to see the Chancellor in Downing Street a few weeks ago, I’m sure he was steeling himself for yet another MP coming to him with a funding request.
With the UK economy in steady recovery and inflation dropping, it’s clear that the Treasury’s plan is working. But the spending requests coming from some corners in the frenzied run-up to Budget day threaten to derail all of that good work.
Instead, I was there to present him with an opportunity. It is one that could usher in thousands of jobs, boost GDP by £1bn and bring up to £6bn in trade uplift to the UK. I hope the Chancellor found that rather refreshing.
That opportunity is to establish a strategic freeport in North Wales, and we must seize it. Any day now, potentially in the Budget itself, the Welsh and UK governments will make their decision on the location for at least one new freeport in Wales.
My constituency of Ynys Môn is uniquely placed for this opportunity, and our bid, led by Stena Line and the Isle of Anglesey County Council, is designed to boost UK economic growth over the long term.
After speaking about the potential Anglesey Freeport over 25 times in the Chamber, leading the Leader of the House to dub Business Questions ‘Freeport Thursdays’, colleagues know my views on the importance of Anglesey Freeport to UK Plc. But I simply cannot hide my belief that the unique characteristics of Ynys Môn will deliver the strongest economic benefits not just for North Wales but for the whole country.
Anglesey Freeport is unique because it is the key to revitalising the UK landbridge between Ireland and the European continent. In the last two years, the UK landbridge has seen a 20% decline in trade, with traders choosing to go around the southern coast of England rather than face the inspections and document checks involved when crossing GB. A freeport would allow us to restore the UK landbridge by removing all this red tape, generating up to £6bn trade uplift to the UK economy by 2040.
This crucial and unique benefit is in addition to the 13,000 jobs that Anglesey Freeport would bring over a 15-year period; jobs for people in North Wales through partnerships with world-class educational institutions such as Bangor University and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, supporting the upskilling of local people, and an increase in UK GDP by up to £1bn by 2030, stimulated by business investment from clean energy giants like Rolls-Royce SMR, Bechtel and Lightsource bp.
In February, I hosted an event in Parliament where 24 MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum joined together to call on the government to approve the bid by signing a joint letter to levelling up secretary Michael Gove. It is not just me who sees the importance of Anglesey Freeport to boost growth for the whole UK.
If we accept the Conservative principles of discipline in public spending, the private sector being the engine of the economy and bureaucracy stifling growth, it is clear that freeports are one of the key tools at the Chancellor’s disposal to achieve his aims.
Ever since the government proposed new Freeports for Wales, I’ve been determined that Ynys Môn takes advantage of the UK’s new trading regime and consolidates its position as an international hub for global trading excellence. I hope that the Chancellor seizes this opportunity to unleash growth.
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