‘Supercharged Free Ports’ will help rebalance economy

Integrating Free Ports with enterprise zones would add £9bn a year to the Northern economy, which is equivalent to £1,500 a year extra for each Northern household, and create as many as 150,000 high-value jobs.

Leaving the EU Customs Union will allow the government to apply ‘Supercharged Free Port’ status to seven ports in the North of England, ensuring Britain is ready to fulfill its global trading potential on day one after leaving the European Union. Doing so would boost international trade by £12 billion and add £9 billion a year (double the current economic output of York) to the UK’s GDP.

This idea is also extremely popular with the general public from across the political spectrum, age ranges and areas of the UK. According to private polling done by Survation for the report, 4 out of 5 people (83%) would support the creation of Supercharged Free Ports.

The research conducted by Mace, the British consultancy and construction company behind The Shard, Dubai Expo 2020 and the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru, says that from the 30 March 2021, after the two year transition period has expired, Britain should make the most of being able to set its own trade policy by immediately designating seven areas across the North of England as ‘Supercharged Free Ports’. 

These locations would be both Free Ports, geographical areas that allow goods to be import-ed into a country without paying import tariffs, and enterprise zones - locally designated areas subject to tax relief to encourage private investment. 

The suggested ‘Supercharged Free Ports’ would be located around existing industrial clusters across the North to turbo-charge economic growth and trade:

1. Immingham & Grimsby Ports
2. Hull Port
3. Rivers Hull & Humber
4. Tees & Hartlepool
5. Liverpool
6. Tyne
7. Manchester Airport

All of these areas are also currently ranked highly on the Government’s index of multiple deprivation and were some of the strongest Leave voting areas in the EU referendum.

The analysis, which uses UK trade policy assumptions and the large amount of data from existing Free Ports (or Free Trade Zones) around the world, shows that a policy of ‘Super-charged Free Ports’ would deliver a boost to Northern Powerhouse GDP of £9bn per year after 20 years of maturing: a sum that, in today’s money, would close the gap between Northern and Southern GVA per head by 10-15%.

This equates to an extra £1,500 per every northern household and would translate into over 150,000 high value-added permanent jobs (about the entire population of Cambridge).

Jason Millett, Mace’s Chief Operating Officer for Consultancy, said:

“The creation of Supercharged Free Ports in the North of England could transform the Northern economy, improving the lives of millions of people and helping to reduce inequality across the country. For business, this policy would drive huge industrial and economic growth. We need to ensure the whole of the UK is ready to compete once we leave the European Union – and the creation of Supercharged Free Ports in the North will do just that.”

Lord Jim O’Neill, Crossbench Member of the House of Lords, former Treasury Minister and former Chief Economist at Goldman Sachs said:

“Rebalancing the UK’s economy is crucial to the future success of the whole country. The creation of Free Ports in the North of England will create opportunity, boost growth and free businesses to compete on the global stage”

Mike Hill, Labour MP for Hartlepool said:

“I very much welcome the proposed introduction of a ‘Supercharged’ Free Port covering Tees and Hartlepool. As we leave the EU it is vital that we maximise our global trading potential. There is plenty of talk about rebalancing the UK economy towards the North, but not enough action. 

"Ports like Hartlepool have bags of potential and the proposal could lead to new opportunities for local people, as well as new jobs, apprenticeships and investment.”

The full report is available on Mace's website here

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