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UK ministers will deliver freeport without Welsh Government support "if necessary"

Simon Hart (CC BY 3.0 Chris McAndrew). Llywodraeth y DU (Image: Gwalia).

The Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart has said that UK ministers "can and if necessary will" create a freeport in Cymru even if they cannot get the backing of the Welsh Government.

Mr. Hart said the "only obstacle" to delivering a freeport was the Welsh Government.

In a statement to the House of Commons in February 2020, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that freeports "will allow us to drive forward investment and regeneration in some of the most deprived areas in the UK, delivering highly-skilled jobs for people across the country."

However, experts in the field including Professor Catherine Barnard of Cambridge University, concluded in a report that freeports are unlikely to be a "magic bullet" for the economy, merely relocating jobs rather than creating new ones.

Speaking to the Welsh Affairs Committee in March, the First Minister expressed his wariness of freeports: "Freeports are not a policy of the Welsh Government. They have never been part of a manifesto that I have stood on, and I am not elected to introduce them. They are a manifesto commitment of the Conservative party at the UK level."

He did, however, state that he would be willing to enter into constructive discussions with the UK government about opening a freeport in Cymru if certain criteria were met.

The previous Welsh Government argued that freeports might undermine environmental and employment standards. Instead, it cited the green ports model being proposed in Scotland, whereby ports would receive tax and customs relief if they committed to higher standards.



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