Freeports aim to create economic activity – like trade, investment and jobs – near shipping ports or airports. They were supposed to be a Brexit benefit even though they aren’t.
There are around 80 free zones within the EU. Until 2012 there were five free ports within the UK, until the UK government allowed the domestic laws that set up those ports to expire, reports Full Fact.
Teesside became the first to enter operation, in November 2021, and this has already come under scrutiny.
Back in January Rishi Sunak landed at Teesside International Airport where he met up with Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen who took him on a guided look around Hartlepool town centre and the facilities at the Northern School of Art. One wonders if they discussed how the freeport was going.
The Thames freeport in Essex opened the following month, in 2012
Sites near Liverpool, Plymouth and Hull have also been set up, as have shared freeports for Felixstowe and Harwich and Southampton and Portsmouth.
Well, Private Eye have reported that for just £96.79+VAT some North East businessmen were handed the freehold of the entire SEAH site in Teesworks.
They claim around £100m of public money has been pumped into the site to remediate it, as it is a brownfield site.
“Yes, you can “make Brexit work” – but only if, like Tory Mayor of Tees Valley Ben Houchen & his chums, you’re an asset stripper.”
Gina Miller tweeted: “As I keep saying Sunak’s Freeports/Charter Cities are corruption, capitalism, croynism on steroids. Will result in the destruction for rights, climate protections and accountability. People in the proposed sites must protest and expose this damaging policy.”
Labour’s Andy McDonald told the Commons: “Private Eye revealed truly shocking industrial scale corruption on Teesside… the only economic growth being delivered is into the accounts of Ben Houchen’s pals… so what plans has the govt got for a full investigation into this industrial scale corruption?”