The UK government has committed to establishing Freeports in each of the four nations, with a target of 10 across the UK (including a minimum of one in each of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, if supported by the devolved administrations).
Under the UK government model, a Freeport is an area with Customs and Tax benefits and a simplified Planning regime. There is a maximum permitted distance of 45 km between any two points of the ‘outer boundary’ of the Freeport area. Within the outer boundary there has to be:
- at least one (and ideally more than one) ‘port’ (sea port, airport and / or rail port);
- a customs site;
- a tax site (of not more than 600 hectares).
The UK Freeport model aims to achieve three core objectives and six related outcomes:
Objective 1 - establish Freeports as national hubs for global trade and investment across the UK
- Trade: increase in trade throughput through the designated Freeport area.
- Investment: increase in investment within Freeport boundary area, surrounding area and nationally.
Objective 2 – promote regeneration and job creation (Lead policy objective)
- Employment: increased number of jobs and average wages in deprived areas in and around the Freeport.
- Economic activity: increase in economic specialisation in activities high in GVA relative to the current makeup of the local economy.
Objective 3 – create a hotbed of innovation
- Innovation: Increased local involvement and funding in R&D and innovation.
- Productivity: Increased productivity in each target region, through increased capacity to absorb innovation.
Once established, Freeports (and those conducting business through them, or established within them) will benefit from a range of measures, exemptions, reliefs and streamlined processes to support delivery of the core objectives. The key areas of benefit include Customs, Tax and a simplified Planning regime.