Labour has denounced a plan by Boris Johnson to create duty-free ports around Britain after Brexit as a boon to money-laundering and tax evasion that will diminish employment rights. The British government will on Friday appoint an expert panel to advise on the establishment of freeports, where businesses can import, warehouse and re-export goods duty free.
The government claims that the ports could be free of “unnecessary checks and paperwork, and include customs and tax benefits” and would boost economic growth around the country. But Labour’s shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said the plan would not bring new investment or growth.
“It is a race to the bottom that will have money-launderers and tax dodgers rubbing their hands with glee. Freeports and free-enterprise zones risk companies shutting up shop in one part of the country in order to exploit tax breaks elsewhere and, worst of all, lower employment rights,” he said.
“The British people did not vote for this new administration and they certainly did not vote to see their jobs and livelihoods threatened in favour of gifting further tax breaks to big companies and their bosses.”
Scepticism of experts
Trade experts are sceptical about the value of freeports, which often simply move economic activity from one place to another and do not reduce friction at the border. But international trade secretary Liz Truss said the ports would do for towns and cities across Britain what an enterprise zone in London’s Docklands did for the capital.