Regional Gateway editor Chloë Greenbank summarises the latest happenings across airports serving business, regional and low-fare routes.
It’s been one of those weeks where quite frankly I’d like to teleport out of here to somewhere warm, sunny and without looming deadlines…
But given my life isn’t a science fiction film I’ll stick to the day job and focus on ports of another kind. Freeports.
Following the UK’s departure from the EU at the end of last month, government ministers promised in a consultation launched on Monday 10 February to “unleash the potential” of deprived communities by creating up to 10 freeports in locations across the UK. An attractive proposition for airports, freeports offer different customs rules to those applied across the rest of the country. Goods which come into the port avoid tariffs and the areas can benefit from other incentives, such as tax breaks.
In a statement the government said it has “drawn on evidence from successful freeports around the world to develop a UK freeport model.” In addition to tariff flexibility, customs facilitation and tax measures the government is also considering “planning reforms and additional targeted funding for infrastructure improvements to incentivise innovation.”
Stobart Group’s Carlisle Lake District Airport announced its intention to become a freeport last year. Commenting on how it would be an incentive for businesses to come to the area, Carlisle MP John Stevenson said: “It would give sustainable support to the airport itself and put it on a long term secure footing… The challenge will obviously be that there are other ports that are equally as interested”
Speaking on behalf of the UK’s airport community Karen Dee, CEO Airport Operators Association, offered her support for freeports saying they “offer a potential opportunity for airports to facilitate more economic prosperity and the creation of new jobs in the areas they serve.”
Dee added: “We look forward to engaging with the Government on its proposals and ensuring they offer the best model for our sector, while not distorting competition between airports.”
However, the reaction to the freeport proposal from trade experts and other European countries has been mixed. Brussels is clamping down on 82 free ports after identifying that their special tariff and duty status has aided the financing of terrorism, money laundering and organised crime.
Still, the UK is forging ahead with its plans. Following a 10 week consultation period potential freeports will be invited to bid for the status with the government aiming to open the first locations as early as 2021.
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