Not sunk yet: Welsh freeport still in the works says Prime Minister
A tax free port in Wales is still in the works, the Prime Minister has confirmed today.
It was reported before the new year that the idea of setting up freeports in Wales and Scotland may have been “killed” by Treasury civil servants.
But in the House of Commons today Boris Johnson answered Ynys Môn MP Virginia Crosbie to say that they were still planning on bringing a freeport to Wales, with Michael Gove leading the discussions.
“Can the Prime Minister confirm to me and my Ynys Môn constituents that the UK Government are committed to at least one freeport in Wales?” Virginia Crosbie asked. “Will he update the House on how discussions are progressing with the Welsh Government?”
Boris Johnson replied that “my right honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities [Michael Gove] is indeed talking to his counterparts in the Welsh Government about establishing a freeport in Wales.
“I urge our friends in the Welsh Government to agree to those plans as a matter of urgency.”
The question came after the Telegraph reported last year that the idea of setting up freeports in Wales and Scotland may have been “killed” by Treasury civil servants.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had previously lauded the free ports as a way of “levelling up” the economy outside of London.
But according to the Telegraph, the Treasury privately feared that freeports would simply result in less tax revenue and “displace” existing investment from elsewhere.
“The Treasury has killed freeports,” a source told the newspaper.
Virginia Crosbie has previously also quizzed Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg as to how the freeport plan was progressing.
He replied by blasting the “socialist and separatists” running the Welsh Government, saying that they are standing in the way of the UK Government creating a tax-free port in Wales.
“I do not know whether you have heard the news that the socialists have gone into partnership with the separatists in Wales, so we now have to wonder whether the socialists are any longer a Unionist party,” Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, replied.
However, he said that “Her Majesty’s Government are committed to establishing the freeports programme in Wales as soon as possible”.
“Freeports are a really important way of levelling up, he said. “They are national hubs for trade, innovation and commerce, regenerating communities across the UK, attracting new businesses, and spreading jobs, investment and opportunity to towns and cities across the whole of the United Kingdom.”
Welsh Secretary Simon Hart had previously said that Wales would have to accept a freeport “come what may”, while Wales’ Economy Minister Vaughan Gething had warned them not to “impose” the port on Wales.
First Minister Mark Drakeford had also previously voiced his reservations, saying that “anybody sensible” would be “worried about displacement in freeports”.
But he added in March of last year that those issues were “resolvable” but that the “ball at the moment is in the court of the UK government”.