Port of Tyne in line to become free port in drive to create 'thousands of jobs' after Brexit
Post-Brexit free ports will create "thousands of jobs" as part of the UK's future trade arrangements, the International Trade Secretary has claimed – and Port of Tyne has been identified as a suitable candidate.
Ahead of a visit to the North East, Liz Truss 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.
Port of Tyne was among those identified as suitable to become a free port in a report released in 2018.
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, who is visiting Teesside which has been identified as another candidate, said free ports would use onshore enterprise and manufacturing as the "gateway to our future prosperity, creating thousands of jobs".
"We will have a truly independent trade policy after we leave the EU on October 31," she added.
However, Labour 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: "Freeports 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."
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 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.