Sunak unveils Brexit trade masterplan to turbocharge UK growth as EU ties finally cut

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Rishi Sunak said the creation of new free ports at the end of the Brexit transition period will deliver a much-needed boost to the British economy. The Chancellor unveiled a new scheme allowing local coastal communities to apply to become a free port, insisting the move would attract investment and create jobs. Speaking to Sky News, Mr Sunak said: “This week the Prime Minister will be publishing our plan for green revolution with an exciting set of opportunities to create jobs and drive growth across the UK as we transition to net zero.

“Exciting news that we’re launching our bidding prospectus for free ports allowing local communities to apply to become a free port.

“And now that we’ve left the EU we have the opportunity to do things differently. Free ports are an excellent example of that.

“Areas with enhanced tax incentives, other supports and also easier customs processes mean you can attract investment, create jobs and drive growth.

“And it’s a perfect example of our levelling up agenda in practice.”

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Mr Sunak added: “Our new free ports will create national hubs for trade, innovation and commerce, levelling up communities across the UK, creating new jobs, and turbo-charging our economic recovery.

“As we embrace our new opportunities as an independent trading nation, we want to deliver lasting prosperity to the British people and free ports will be key to delivering this.”

The Treasury said areas transformed into free ports will benefit from a range of tax reliefs, including on the purchase of land, and the programme will create thousands of jobs.

Bidding began on Monday for seven spots across England and the first free port is expected to open in 2021.

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The free port model allows companies to import goods tariff-free, with businesses only needing to pay once the product is sold into the domestic market, or is exported without paying UK tariffs.

The UK has had seven free ports in its history, but none since 2012 when the Statutory Instruments which allowed ones in Liverpool, Southampton, Port of Tilbury, Port of Sheerness and Prestwick Airport, expired.

Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, said: “Our freeports will be international centres for trade and investment, powering regeneration, job creation and entrepreneurship.”

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British Ports Association (BPA) spokesman Richard Ballantyne said: “Ports and the wider maritime industry are eager to play their part in the solution to national economic recovery and the regeneration of coastal communities.”

The BPA has urged the Government to prioritize fairness and inclusivity since plans for the creation of new free ports was first announced in 2019 to best ensure all regions of the UK can benefit from the policy.

The organization has however warned Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could have fallen behind in the preparations for bidding and could face some disadvantages during the process.

Tim Morris, of the UK Major Ports Group, said UK operators were “developing ambitious proposals to respond to the free ports opportunity”.

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