Plans are underway for 10 freeports, to act as national hubs for global trade and investment across the UK, to promote regeneration and job creation and to create hotbeds for innovation.
Businesses operating in Freeports will benefit from more generous tax reliefs, customs benefits and wider government support as well as enhanced 10% rate of Structures and Buildings Allowance for constructing or renovating non-residential structures and buildings, capital allowance of 100% for companies investing in plant and machinery, full relief from Stamp Duty Land Tax on the purchase of land or property, full Business Rates relief and employer National Insurance contributions relief. Importers will get relief on customs duties or can defer the duties while the goods are held in the Freeport, and there are simplified customs procedures.
Stimulating infrastructure investment and cleaner energy
Freeports can also play an important role in stimulating infrastructure investment and the renaissance of communities, supporting post-COVID economic recovery, but can also have an impact on inland sites, combining fiscal relief for investors and exporters with agile planning regimes and coordinated infrastructure programmes that dovetail with the Freeport’s existing hinterland. Northern locations in particular will have the added advantage of the Treasury being close at hand in Darlington and the UK Infrastructure Bank sited in Leeds.
Freeports undoubtedly can do a great deal to help communities, support manufacturing and encourage investment and adoption of Cleantech and decarbonisation. Their other aim of fostering innovation will require a complex web of policies as well as changes to border infrastructure. Freeports may not entirely eliminate many non-tariff trade barriers, such as rules of origin or the principle of territoriality in intellectual property rights, but for all their limitations Freeports do have the potential to reinvigorate neglected parts of the country, improve employment prospects and drive investment in skills and infrastructure.
How can we help?
Our considerable cross sector expertise in planning, tax, property and infrastructure and energy means Shoosmiths is well placed to help clients take advantage of the benefits of Freeport status. Furthermore with our lawyers based in 13 locations across the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, our geographic footprint means we combine outstanding legal expertise with in-depth regional knowledge.