£12bn boost from free trade zone

An offshore vessel at the Port of Blyth. Picture by Flypro-UK Ltd
An offshore vessel at the Port of Blyth. Picture by Flypro-UK Ltd

The next UK Government should create a free-trade zone across the north of England which could generate £12billion a year as part of a drive to give the region a new global outlook, a think-tank said last week.

Policy North, the independent, cross-party think-tank based in Newcastle, has launched its new Global North strategy to create a trading vision for the north of England that will ‘realise Brexit’s true potential’.

Writing for the Telegraph, Policy North president, David Harrison, a senior business figure with more than 40 years of experience, said that a free-trade zone could play a long-term role in boosting economic activity near key port and airport facilities.

Free-trade zones are areas within a country’s territorial border, considered to be outside of the customs border. That means businesses can import, process and export goods without incurring customs tariffs.

Initial research for Policy North shows that a free-trade zone in the north covering nine major freight ports, could create 612,000 jobs, if they match the success of existing free-trade zones across the world.

The average gross value added (GVA) of each northern employee is £20,000, meaning the economic impact on the north could be £12billion annually.

He said: “It would enable cargo to be reconfigured or processed and then shipped outside of the UK or alternatively brought into the UK for customs clearance at a later stage, once processing has been completed without the need for UK customs clearance.”

Harrison also warns of the ‘catastrophic’ damage the Scottish National Party’s plans to halve Air Passenger Duty will have on airports in the north, particularly Newcastle.