MHA | Freeport’s are a proven concept – there should be no U-turn

Freeport’s are a proven concept – there should be no U-turn

Posted on: November 16th 2022 · read

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It is rumoured that the government plans to U-turn on Liz Truss’s investment zones in the Autumn Statement. Scraping the expanded investment zone programme would be an error and going further and rolling back on Freeports would be a major mistake.

Rolling back Liz Truss’s proposed 200 investment zones across the UK would be harmful to boosting regional economic growth and local regeneration. Of the few things the former Prime Minister got right, incentivising companies to set up operations in low-tax areas through investment zones was definitely one.

Scrapping these zones would also have a knock-on effect on the wider economy. The Chancellor needs to consider the short and long-term harmful effects of reversing investment zones. Paired with a looming recession the outlook is bleak for regional investment. Investment zones should be retained to help protect vulnerable areas of the UK and the UK economy as a whole.

At the very least, the Chancellor should refrain from rolling back on Freeports, which have already been announced. Freeport’s are a proven concept in Dubai and Hong Kong, creating huge opportunities for duty-free trade and new jobs. These zones will attract large employers and provide a vital boost to jobs in neglected areas, notably in the North of England.

With 8 Freeports and 48 Enterprise zones already in operation, and cities including Stoke and Hull having recently applied, scrapping the expanded programme could put regional growth and regeneration in jeopardy. If these are also to be discarded, the UK risks becoming a weaker international trade partner. Business leaders are already sceptical of government U-turns, another one would damage relations even further.

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