On 9th February Sunday, the government launched a consultation on creation of 10 free ports with special tariff and duty status. Trade experts and ministers believe that such a move will fuel growth and propel job creation but critics believe it could encourage money laundering and other crimes.
The government said it would announce the location of up to 10 new free ports - scheduled to begin operating in 2021. Once the consultation is completed, sea, air and rail ports will be able to bid for free port status. This idea was first pitched by Boris Johnson during his campaign to become Conservative leader. The government has argued that these zones could bring thousands of new jobs and significant investment, notably to deprived coastal areas. It is also proposing zones – which do not necessarily have to be located in a port – where no duty is paid on goods until they enter the full UK market, meaning none at all is paid if they are re-exported from the port. Other extra freedoms include duties only being paid on final goods, not on any raw materials that are imported into the area and then processed. Businesses would be exempt from filling out full customs declarations on imported goods.
"Freeports will unleash the potential in our proud historic ports, boosting and regenerating communities across the UK," Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rishi Sunak, said in a statement.
There could be measures to “reduce the costs of hiring workers working in Freeport sites”, the government said, not specifying how this could be done. The ports could also trial ideas in areas such as customs and transport before they are rolled out across the country. After the 10-week consultation, areas will be invited to bid to become one of the zones.