Freeports Consultation (UK Brexit)

Yesterday (10th Feb) the UK government announced the start of its consultation on its plan to create 10 freeports in locations across the UK.

The consultation deadline is 20th April.

The Freeports consultation document (UK’s Freeports policy) is here.

The consultation includes policies which relate to the whole of the UK, as well as some which are devolved. Where a policy is devolved, the proposals in the consultation apply to England; responsibility for policy development and implementation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland lies with the devolved administrations. The document states the –

UK Government intends to work in partnership with the devolved administrations to develop proposals which enable the creation of Freeports in all nations of the UK.

(1) Tariffs and Customs – Customs and tariffs policy is reserved to the UK Government. The opportunity for customs and tariff benefits would be available UK-wide.

(2) Tax – Some aspects of tax policy are devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This section consults on tax policies which vary in scope, with some applying UK wide, some in England and Northern Ireland, and others in England only.

(3) Planning – Proposals on permitted development rights and zonal planning relate to England only. Proposals on the National Policy Statement for Ports relate to England and Wales.

(4) Regeneration – Infrastructure, skills and housing are devolved matters and the proposals cover England only. Trade and investment promotion is a “concurrent” power. This means that whilst the UK Government has primacy over trade and investment promotion in the UK, the devolved administrations also pursue promotion activity on behalf of businesses in their nations.

(5) Innovation – Innovation policy is UK wide; although some aspects of university funding are devolved matters, we hope to hear from stakeholders across the UK on these proposals.

The summary of questions is on page 40 of the document’s 48 pages.

For example, Q1 asks To what extent do you agree/disagree that the reduced declaration requirements for moving goods into a Freeport represent a useful simplification of the administration of customs processes?

Note the UK government announcement yesterday of the return of physical border checks and paperwork for EU goods imports from 1st Jan 2021 (Blog post yesterday).

Q8 asks What do you see as the advantages and/or disadvantages of an inland Freeport site compared to a Freeport site which is adjacent to a port?

Q11 asks To what extent would the suspension of import VAT be of value to your business?

Note yesterday’s UK government press release did not confirm the VAT deferral scheme.