Boris Johnson’s plan to mimic Singapore in UK unravelled by John Redwood

Rishi Sunak discusses freeports announcement

The Government has opened a bidding process for the creation of up to 10 new freeports, promising they are a simple way to “turbo-charge” the economy, especially in deprived areas. The country has had freeports before, but those – established in the Eighties and Nineties in ports like Liverpool and Tilbury – eventually withered and died. All they could offer was freedom from customs duties, and this was not enough on its own, as more or less the same benefits could be gained by importers and exporters through normal customs procedures.

This time around, UK freeports, which are due to be established this year, will have greater attractions, and the official news announcement listed the three key elements envisaged: streamlined planning processes, package of tax reliefs and simplified customs procedures and duty suspensions on goods.

These key elements are similar to the ones enjoyed by Singapore, which has boosted its economy thanks to the creation of free ports.

In an exclusive interview with, Conservative MP John Redwood delivered a positive assessment of these new initiatives, saying: “Freeports are an incredible idea.

“The freer these ports are, the better.

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“The idea is that you don’t have to charge all the taxes on products that you import temporarily in order to turn them into value added exports.”

The prominent eurosceptic added: “But you can go further than that…

“I would add enterprise zones to the free ports, so they are areas where there is very active enterprise promotion but lower taxes and fewer regulations in order to allow them to work better.

“I would also obviously keep very high standards.

“That would be a very good way of building larger towns and cities around the country with more industrial and commercial activity.

“We want to reduce our dependence on London and the South East, as we are a global trader, and the ports don’t have to be clustered around Kent and London.”

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According to the Sunday Telegraph, the ports in Britain will be “fully operational” within 18 months of the UK leaving the customs union and single market.

Freeports already exist in places including Geneva, Luxembourg, Singapore, Beijing, Monaco and Delaware, where they are often used to store valuable assets.

EU freeports, though, are much more limited in their powers.

In August, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss unveiled a new Freeports Advisory Panel to advise the Government.

Writing exclusively for the Daily Express, Ms Truss said: “Freeports transformed London’s Docklands in the Eighties, and freeports will do the same for towns and cities across the UK.

“They will ensure enterprise and manufacturing as the gateway to our future prosperity, creating thousands of jobs.”

The Institute of Economic Affairs’ Head of Regulatory Affairs Victoria Hewson voiced support for the plan after Ms Truss’ announcement, and said: “Done right, free ports can be transformative.

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“This announcement sends a strong message that the UK is serious about embracing the freedoms that come with leaving the EU customs union and single market.

“We should ensure that this programme frees businesses from the burdens of bureaucracy and high taxation in a truly creative way; and encourages real investment rather than diversion of business from other parts of the country.”

The envoy for the Thames Estuary has recently said a bid to develop one of the UK’s new freeports on the river would be “transformative” for the region.

Kate Willard, who is spearheading redevelopment attempts along the Thames, was speaking after Forth Ports and DP World unveiled their plan for a freeport on the estuary at Thurrock.

Encompassing the Port of Tilbury, Thames Gateway, and Ford’s engine plant at Dagenham, the two firms said that the project could create up to 20,000 jobs.

They said in a statement: “Our proposal will re-connect Britain’s biggest market with its industrial engine.

“A Thames Freeport will be a magnet for new investment, jobs, skills development and the adoption of greener technology.”

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