East Midlands Airport consortium gains UK Freeport status

By Damian Brett

East Midlands Airport

An East Midlands consortium, including the airport, was one of eight companies selected for Freeport status in England.

The East Midlands bid for Freeport status was submitted by a consortium led by the two local enterprise partnerships, including East Midlands Airport.

The proposition is based around the East Midlands Airport Gateway Industrial Cluster as well as two other industrial sites in the region.

The consortium said it will now work with the government to develop the proposals into an Outline Business Case providing further information on how the Freeport will be delivered.

Clare James, East Midlands Airport managing director, said: “I’m delighted that the Government has recognised enormous potential in the East Midlands and how it will be enhanced by a Freeport in the region. Today’s news will shine a spotlight on a part of the country which has so much to offer investors, existing businesses that wish to grow, and the supply chains that are linked to them.

“The global connectivity that East Midlands Airport brings to the bid is more important than ever as the UK looks to strike trade deals around the world. Furthermore, as the region’s international gateway for people and products, it will continue to play a significant role in the Government’s ambition for a ‘global Britain’.”

Companies using Freeports will be able to import goods without paying tariffs, process them into a final good and then either pay a tariff on goods sold into the domestic market, or export the final goods without paying UK tariffs.

Areas given Freeport status will also benefit from a wide package of tax reliefs, including on purchasing land, constructing or renovating buildings, investing in new plant and machinery assets and on Employer National Insurance Contributions.

The launch of the scheme follow’s the UK’s exit from the European Union and comes as the government looks to create new trade links.

Following the news, freight forwarder association Bifa director general Robert Keen said: “To date, BIFA has been indifferent to this proposed development, and queries whether freeports will provide new advantages compared to the existing Customs Special Procedures, which from 1 January 2021 no longer need a guarantee to operate.”

The other Freeports are: Felixstowe  and Harwich, the Humber region, the Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside. 

The announcement was made as part of a wider budget announcement from the UK government.

Also included was an update on apprenticeships but there was no extra help announced for aviation.

Keen said: “The additional £126m announced for apprenticeships and the raising of the cash incentive for employers to £3,000 may help BIFA’s campaign to encourage companies to consider recruiting youngsters and enrolling them on the International Freight Forwarding specialist apprenticeship, which BIFA helped to create in 2018.

“However, there was no mention of the issues facing the aviation sector in either the announcement of the roadmap out of recovery, nor the Budget. This is a concern because a recovery in the passenger sector with an increasing number of flights carrying belly hold cargo will be necessary to allow the air cargo sector to fully recover.”

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