‘Socialists and separatists’ running Wales standing in the way of freeports, says Jacob Rees-Mogg
Jacob Rees-Mogg has blasted 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.
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.
Asked whether a freeport was still on the cards by Ynys Môn MP Virginia Crosbie, Jacob Rees-Mogg replied that the cooperation agreement between Plaid Cymru and Labour had created a “difficulty” for the UK Government.
“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.”
Conservative MP Virginia Corsbie had earlier asked if Jacob Rees-Mogg could “confirm to my constituents that the UK Government are committed to at least two freeports in Wales?”
“Will he update the House on how discussions on freeports are progressing with the Welsh Government?” she asked.
The question came after the Telegraph reported last week 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, 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.
The Treasury’s concerns mirror that of the Welsh Government, with First Minister Mark Drakeford previously stating that “anybody sensible” would be “worried about displacement in freeports”.
But he added in March that those issues were “resolvable” but that the “ball at the moment is in the court of the UK government”.
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