Free Ports Need ‘Bolt-Ons’ to Truly Transform UK, say British Ports Association

The British Ports Association (BPA) has welcomed a study published by the Centre for Policy Studies think tank on future post Brexit trade today, but argued that unless modified there is a danger that proposals on free ports would merely replicate existing rules.

Free ports are trading areas with a special status which exempts goods from customs arrangements and duties but many of the advantages can already be achieved with routine permissions from the UK Government.

The BPA has however been exploring a vision where ports may be granted special planning and development status to stimulate economic activity.

Commenting on the report, the British Ports Association’s Chief Executive Richard Ballantyne said:

It’s right that we debate future trading models but in their current form the proposals on free ports are unlikely to lead to the ‘game changing’ measures some in and outside the UK ports have imagined. Development rules and enterprise stimulus around both sea and airports could lead to real growth around our international gateways. Regional growth could be achieved by enabling ports, tenants, manufacturers and traders to develop and expand around our ports, in areas with a plentiful workforce and suitable ambitions.

The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) pamphlet highlights the potential impacts – both potentially positive and negative consequences – could be on more deprived areas, many of which are in coastal areas. The CPS recommendations include:

  • establishing free ports after Brexit;
  • the promotion of a truly open and flexible future trade policy;
  • introduction of a network of ‘Opportunity Zones’ in the UK’s most economically deprived areas to incentivise foreign directinvestment and boost British businesses;
  • the encouragement of exporting through government campaigns and reforms to export credit;
  • a holistic, supply chain-focused approach to encouraging exporting

The BPA has this week supported the Maritime UK Coastal Powerhouse initiative which aims to encourage coastal development, connectivity, innovation and clustering to drive jobs and growth.

The (embargoed) press release and summary of the CPS report can be found here:

[Embargoed until 35 June 2019]

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