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24 Jun 2021

UK Freeports in 2021: What are the benefits, opportunities and risks?


In March 2021, the UK Government announced eight successful freeport bidders, namely Felixstowe, Teesside, East Midlands Airport, Humber, Liverpool, Plymouth, Solent and Thames. 

While the UK Government's announcement in March was a major milestone, this is only the start of the process for the successful bidders. The bidders are now required to (i) submit an outline business case; (ii) work with HM Treasury and HMRC to review and confirm the boundaries of the proposed tax sites prior to approval; and (iii) begin the HMRC-led authorisation process for operators to run customs sites and for businesses to operate within them.

While this work by the successful bidders is going on in the background and we wait further clarifications from the UK Government about how this freeport model will work exactly, we look at some of the major benefits that businesses can avail of in the UK's latest freeport model.

The re-creation of freeports in the UK has been the subject of significant press attention since the commitment to freeports was included in the 2019 Conservative Party Manifesto and furthermore when the freeport consultation was published in February 2020. 

Seven free ports historically operated in the UK at various points between 1984 and 2012 but were ultimately discontinued. Many have therefore questioned whether or not freeports will actually bring all of the perceived benefits the UK Government claims freeports will this time round and are eagerly awaiting clarification on what exactly has changed from the last model of freeports.

The UK Government has stressed that their latest model of freeports is superior and will succeed in creating national hubs for global trade and investment. 

The UK Government has outlined that there will be incentivised tax, customs, duties and planning for businesses located within a freeport. The UK Government has however not confirmed to date exactly how these incentives shall be implemented or provided much detail on the actual workings of such incentives. 

This article looks at some of the benefits and potential concerns that surround the UK Government's current UK freeport model.

Link to full article



Justin McClelland

Justin McClelland
Partner and Practice Group Leader

T:  +44 20 7809 2127 M:  Email Justin | Vcard Office:  London

Emma Skakle

Emma Skakle

T:  +44 20 7809 2335 M:  Email Emma Office:  London

Jonathan Spearing

Jonathan Spearing
Partner and global head of trade and commodities

T:  +44 20 7809 2228 M:  +44 7785 463 216 Email Jonathan | Vcard Office:  London