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  1. ITV Report

Free Port commission launched on Teesside

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Simon Clarke, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland in Teesside. Credit: Tees Valley Mayor office

Post-Brexit free ports will create "thousands of jobs" as part of the UK's future trade arrangements, the International Trade Secretary has claimed.

Liz Truss made the comments ahead of her visit to Teesside this morning and also said the Government plans to create "the world's most advanced free port model" as soon as possible.

Free ports are areas inside the UK geographically, but legally outside of the UK customs territory.

Once the UK leaves the EU, seaports and airports across the UK will be invited to bid to become one of up to 10 free ports with the aspiration of increasing trade with new markets across the world.

Ms Truss said free ports would use onshore enterprise and manufacturing as the "gateway to our future prosperity, creating thousands of jobs".

She added:

We will have a truly independent trade policy after we leave the EU on October 31.

– Liz Truss, International Trade Secretary

Labour though have said free ports represent "a race to the bottom that will have money launderers and tax dodgers rubbing their hands with glee".<

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said:

Free ports and free enterprise zones risk companies shutting up shop in one part of the country in order to exploit tax breaks elsewhere, and, worst of all, lower employment rights.

The British people did not vote for this new administration and they certainly did not vote to see their jobs and livelihoods threatened in favour of gifting further tax breaks to big companies and their bosses.

– Barry Gardiner, Shadow international trade secretary

The news though was welcomed by the Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.

He said:

After a 19 month campaign, I’m delighted the new Government has sat up, listened to the people of Teesside and announced 10 new Free Ports across the UK.

Free Ports have the potential to turbocharge our regional economy after Brexit, bringing desperately-needed jobs, growth and investment here and making us a magnet for even more international investment. This is a game changing opportunity to reshore manufacturing jobs we haven’t seen in this country for decades to the former Redcar steelworks site.

As we leave the EU and reclaim our place as an open, outward-looking trading nation once more, a Free Port would be beyond transformational for our region, helping us build our current strengths in chemical processing, energy and logistics industries.

Every single independent report confirms that we all see a major boost as we realise our vision to become the most attractive place in the country for high value manufacturing.

Last week we welcomed the US Ambassador to the UK and today our campaign to secure a Free Port for Teesside has been successful. Slowly but surely our region is receiving some much-needed positive attention.

Teesport played a crucial role in this nation’s historic trading past, and is key to our great trading future after we leave the European Union.”

– Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor.

The Port of Tyne also commented on the news.

Chief Executive Matt Beeton, said:

The Government’s Free Ports Advisory Panel needs to consider the complex needs of manufacturers like Komatsu, Nissan and others and create solutions that safeguard jobs and stimulates further foreign investment.

We strongly believe a Free Port covering the region’s advanced manufacturing cluster and key transport nodes like the Port of Tyne has the potential to supercharge regional growth by unlocking post-Brexit opportunities in new and existing supply chains.”

– Matt Beeton, Port of Tyne

In his first speech as Prime Minister on the steps of 10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson said free ports would provide thousands of jobs for people in "left-behind areas".

During the Tory leadership campaign, Mr Johnson pledged to create "about six" free ports.

The new Brexit-supporting Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak, who is the MP for Richmond, wrote a paper in November 2016 on free ports for the Centre for Policy Studies think tank - which was co-founded by Margaret Thatcher.

In the document, Mr Sunak wrote: "Goods can be imported, manufactured or re-exported inside the Free Trade Zone without incurring domestic customs duties or taxes.

"These are only paid - often at reduced rates - on goods entering the domestic economy."

Today, Mr Sunak said:

We are exploring free ports as an innovative way to drive growth and support thousands of high-skilled jobs across the UK.

We will focus on those areas that could benefit the most, as we look to boost investment and opportunity for communities across the country.

– Richi Sunak, Richmond MP and Chief Secretary to the Treasury

The Department for International Trade will also launch a Free Ports Advisory Panel which will include ministers from the Department for International Trade and the Treasury.

Panellists include David Cameron's former special adviser Daniel Korski, who last year wrote in an article for City AM that a no-deal Brexit would be "disastrous" for technology firms.

Also on the panel is small business champion Emma Jones, who coordinated an open letter alongside 68 other business owners which warned that no deal would be a "disaster" for small companies.

The panel also includes Tom Clougherty, head of tax at the Centre for Policy Studies, and Eamonn Butler, co-founder and director of the free-market think tank the Adam Smith Institute.

The Government cites the enterprise zone status granted to London's Docklands in the 1980s - which helped to regenerate the former port into a financial district - as its ambition for the new free ports.

The United States has over 250 free trade zones, employing 420,000 people.

An example of one such port is in Miami, which sees over 7 million tons of cargo pass through its port every year and firms within the zone can import, warehouse and re-export products duty-free.