Last reviewed 19 November 2020

The Government’s proposal to establish 10 Freeports in the UK is a step closer to fruition after it opened the bidding process in England for at least seven of the new Freeports (see Government advances its plans for Freeports).

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Our new Freeports will create national hubs for trade, innovation and commerce, levelling up communities across the UK, creating new jobs, and turbo-charging our economic recovery.”

At the centre of the new Freeports policy is, he explained, an ambitious new customs model, drawing on international best practice, and building on the UK’s existing customs arrangements.

A firm can import goods into a Freeport without paying tariffs, process them into a final good and then either pay a tariff on goods sold into the domestic market, or export the final goods without paying UK tariffs.

Areas given Freeport status will also benefit from a wide package of tax reliefs, including on purchasing land, constructing or renovating buildings, investing in new plant and machinery assets and on Employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs).

The first Freeports will be open for business in 2021, and sea, air and rail ports from across England are encouraged to apply, working in tandem with their local leaders, businesses and others in their communities.

Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association (BPA), said: “The launch of the Freeports bidding process in England today represents a huge step forward in the establishment of fair and inclusive Freeports in the UK.”

The full Bidding Prospectus can be found at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/935491/Freeports_Bidding_Prospectus_final.pdf and the deadline for applications is noon on 5 February 2021.

In launching the bidding process, the Government has stressed that it remains committed to ensuring that its Freeport model maintains the UK’s high standards with respect to security, safety, workers’ rights, data protection, biosecurity and the environment, while ensuring fair and open competition between businesses.