Whatever your views on Brexit are or were, they are immaterial. As they say, we are where we are, and so we now need to focus on making the situation we find ourselves in as successful as possible.
For those of us who have extensive international expertise and experience, free trade zones and free trade ports, as well as economic offset initiatives are nothing new.
We therefore find HMG’s lack of creative thinking, imagination and use of such strategies and platforms here in the UK, especially post Brexit, rather baffling.
We would like to see HMG commit to the following.
- Make Northern Ireland an UK free trade zone.
- Establish not just free trade ports, but free trades zones across England, Scotland and Wales, and allow these free trade zones to also become zones for innovation, entrepreneurship and business, especially for SME’s, within which enterprises, organisations, businesses and individuals are fully incentivised and supported from finance to coaching.
- Establish across The UK a comprehensive economic offset initiative, whereby larger international and UK players can be incentivised and rewarded in multiple ways, to contribute towards, initiate and own initiatives and projects that will not only boost business, trade, employment, innovation and growth, but have a deep and direct socially constructive impact upon national, regional and local communities, families and individuals, from economic and financial to social perspectives. Executed properly, we envision that the benefits of such an EO initiative could be radical and long-term, ranging from youth and social projects, through education, training and development, to major national, regional and local infrastructure initiatives and projects.
Taken in tandem, we believe such FTZ and EO strategies would help turbo boost The UK economic recovery and go far deeper than HMG’s proposed free ports.
Whilst HMG’s announcement on these is to be welcomed as a practical initiative and direction of travel, they go nowhere near far enough and reflect a paucity of creativity, imagination and vision from HMG.
Currently the UK has 24 enterprise zones with HMG announcing eight new zones – East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, Humber region, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside. All the existing and new zones benefit from light touch regulation and bureaucracy and subsidies, designed to stimulate business. We repeat, all this is welcome as a direction of travel.
It should be noted that free ports are not the same as free zones, although they are cut from the same cloth.
Research, as that from the USA amongst others, suggest that there can be drawbacks to free ports / free zones in that the advantages can bee too localised. By advocating FTZ and EO across The UK, such downsides would be mitigated. Research and analysis might also suggest that free ports per se are not the answer, partly because The UK enjoys a free market and low tariff environment on the whole. So, FTZ’s and EO initiatives may be of added value.
We acknowledge that such FTZ’s and EO have to be carefully and judiciously located and planned and that the ROI must bear sustainable, medium and long-term (50 -1 00 years) scrutiny. We also acknowledge that our call for such FTZ’s and EO initiatives are ‘political’ in wanting to make Brexit as successful as possible, provide a pro-business and entrepreneurial framework and strategy for The UK, and would =, we hope, serve to underwrite and assure the stability, recovery and ability for the whole of The UK to thrive in the face of multiple ‘political’ challenges the union currently faces.
So, what do our readers think?
For readers who wish to explore this topic more we would suggest:
House of Commons UK Government Policy on Freeports report
Institute for Government