Freeports: Failed Tory gimmick or a real win for Wales?
Freeports are “a recipe for tax avoidance” and a “failed Tory gimmick” according to Wales Green Party Leader Anthony Slaughter.
“It’s a relaxation of the rules and a relaxation of standards. It’s basically giving public money to tax avoiding multi nationals – to companies who are already very proficient in tax avoidance and minimising their tax payments,” Mr Slaughter told Nation.Cymru.
It appears that all other political parties are in favour of the freeports programme, he said: “They all seem to appreciate it and there’s an unquestioning acceptance that this is a good thing.
“That’s the whole appeal of the freeport model is that they’re exempt from certain taxes – as long as what comes in and what goes out doesn’t enter the rest of the UK.”
This week, Welsh Government Minister for Economy Vaughan Gething gave a statement in the Senedd on the Freeport Programme in Wales. He said: “Both the Celtic and the Ynys Môn bids are clearly aligned to our economic mission and have the potential to play a key role in creating a stronger, fairer, greener Welsh economy.”
The Celtic freeport will be based around the port of Port Talbot and the port of Milford Haven.
The plans there, explained Mr Gething, is to “focus on low-carbon technologies, such as floating offshore wind, hydrogen, carbon capture and utilisation, and storage, and biofuels to help support the accelerated reduction of carbon emissions.
“The Anglesey free port will be based around the port of Holyhead and will develop the energy island programme by focusing on marine energy technology testing on the seabed—that’s both tidal and wind power.
“Both bids provided a compelling narrative of how they intend to boost the distinct strengths that both sites boast, harnessing the unique opportunities from offshore wind and marine energy to advanced manufacturing and innovation.”
The Wales Green Party need and want urgent investment, “on a massive scale”, into the renewable potential that Wales has, according to Anthony Slaughter.
“Obviously, we are in favour of investing in renewable energy and exploiting the resources we’ve got as soon as possible, both onshore and offshore wind. But (freeports) isn’t the only way of getting that investment.”
Mr Slaughter believes “there are many better ways of doing this” than resorting to freeports.
“The way forward is community or nationally owned energy production, so that the people of Wales benefits and not offshore companies.”
Two freeports – one in the north and another in the south, “is a real win for Wales” and will establish “hubs for global trade,” Mr Gething said.
Each free port would be supported by up to £26 million of seed investment funding and both sites will be able to access “a range of customs benefits and tax reliefs,” he explained.
“Free ports can act as drivers of growth and employment in their areas and, collectively, the bidders estimate that their proposals could create as many as 20,000 high-quality new jobs”
Mr Slaughter is yet to be convinced: “We’ve seen in the past that it’s a failed Tory gimmick that was almost abandoned years ago.
“In previous cases like Teesside (north of England) it failed to deliver the scale of jobs it promised, and was promising much more than is being promised here.”
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