“Dover District Council wholeheartedly supports the Port of Dover’s proposals for Freeport designation and the creation of a Global Trade and Innovation Zone in East Kent”
East Kent is Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet Council areas.
Mike Whiting, Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Kent County Council said:
“Kent County Council fully supports the Government’s ambition to create Free ports in the UK. I believe Kent, as the UK’s Gateway to Europe, is perfectly placed to provide the infrastructure, innovation and manufacturing base to transform not just the Kent economy but the wider economic health of the whole country.”
A free port as defined by HM Government, refers to an area that although inside the geographic boundary of a country, is considered outside the country for customs purposes. So a kind of special economic zones where usual customs laws do not apply.
An alternative take on free ports is they resemble offshore financial centres – a Singapore-style tax-free zone identified as a significant money-laundering, tax evasion and tax avoidance risk.
The Government consultation on free ports opened on the 9th Feb and closed on the 13th July. It sets out that free ports would be a magnet for jobs creating 86,000 potentially across 10 free port sites in the UK.
In Jan 2020, The Port of Dover welcomed the announcement “on free ports. For a high intensity operation like Dover, where space is already well utilised, extending the freeport concept beyond the dock gate could potentially create new opportunities for businesses.”
Now the work has begun on the Brexit Customs Clearance point at J10A of the M20, in Ashford, this would form part of a Free port, or as some are calling it, a Global Trade and Innovation Zone (GTI Zone).
The Government have made it clear, free ports sites can be located inland as well as adjacent to ports, increasing the range of options for sites. A recent official Government press release, made it clear businesses in free ports will operate ‘free of [the] unnecessary checks and paperwork’
So what is a Free port? Well there are two views on this. The first as put forward by Rishi Sunal MP states:
Today, a Free Zone or Foreign Trade Zone (as today’s Free Ports are generally known) refers to an area that although inside the geographic boundary of a country, is considered outside the country for customs purposes. This means that goods can enter and re-exit the Zone without incurring usual import procedures or tariffs, which are only incurred when products enter the domestic economy. Typically, Free Trade Zones enjoy lower tax, trade tariff and duty environments than the rest of the domestic economy and are created with the explicit aim of attracting investment, promoting trade and boosting domestic manufacturing activity and local employment.
The second view can be seen in a document released on the 10th Feb 2020, titled – Money Laundering & Tax Evasion risks in free ports
Free ports are conducive to secrecy. With their preferential treatment, they resemble offshore financial centres, offering both high security and discretion and allowing transactions to be made without attracting the attention of regulators or direct tax authorities. A value needs to be declared to store goods in a free port or customs warehouse. The value is generally declared by the owner or a representative (‘self-declaration’) and in most cases is not checked.
Which chimes with the recently released Government press release where they said: businesses in free ports will operate ‘free of [the] unnecessary checks and paperwork’
The Port of Dover has today revealed it is developing ambitious and innovative plans for a ‘virtual’ Freeport Zone that aims to help make Global Britain a reality whilst leading the fight against climate change. The plans will form part of the Port’s response to the Government’s Freeports Consultation, which closed on the 13th July.
The GTI Zone provides a scalable Freeport model designed to allow businesses and other public bodies to easily ‘plug in’ over time, making sure that all parts of the economy and areas most in need of regeneration have the potential to benefit.
The Government Free port Consultation document speaks about Customs, Tax, Planning, Regeneration and Innovation and has massive implications for East Kent such as areas like
And more besides.
We strongly suspect that East Kent will become a free port area now we have a customs clearance area, where work has already begun. Add in the fact it has support from Kent County Council, Dover District Council, The Port of Dover and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, we are certain that at some point point in the future, East Kent will be designated a Freeport port zone; and the people who live the area, will effectively live in a offshore financial centre.
The Shepwayvox Team
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