Inspiring Business by Sharing Success

East Midlands Freeport gets green light

East Midlands Freeport gets green light

Up to 60,000 new skilled jobs could be created in the region after ambitious plans to create a new freeport based around East Midlands Airport were given the go-ahead.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the major economic boost for the region in his 2021 Spring Budget announcement, after a bid was submitted by a consortium led by the Local Enterprise Partnerships, private sector businesses and local authorities, with support from universities, business groups, local MPs and the proposed East Midlands Development Corporation.

Rebuilding the economy, creating jobs and driving inward investment are among the key benefits of a freeport, which will offer special tax breaks and customs incentives as a cornerstone of the Government’s post-Brexit trade policies.

Championed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the new zones will be designated as new business and enterprise hubs to boost economic activity and deliver lasting prosperity and by driving inward investment to communities.

The East Midlands has put together a compelling proposition based around East Midlands Airport as an inland port that brings together a mix of industries at the heart of the country. It is already the country’s busiest pure freight airport and the LEPs, supported by local authorities and other key organisations include the Chamber, say it could become a hub for a new era of global trade and a magnet for new investment to renew infrastructure.

Reacting to the news, East Midlands Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles said: “This announcement provides a much-needed boost to confidence for businesses in our region as planning continues for the post-pandemic full reopening of the economy. It is something we have been campaigning for since 2018, when we published our Delivering a Great Future manifesto at Westminster and presented what we called ‘The Big Opportunity’ for the region, featuring a free trade zone linked to East Midlands Airport.

"Since our manifesto was published, we believe both the need and the scale of the opportunity for our vision has only grown, and it was great to see a fantastic collaborative effort from our region during the bid process – including 15 of our MPs coming together to offer their support. Our region already has fantastic national and international trading links – something highlighted during the pandemic – and freeport status means we can cement our role at the centre of Britain's post-Brexit global trading relationship.

"We are in a unique position as the only inland freeport among the eight designated zones, which is testament to East Midlands Airport's reputation as the country's most important mover of international freight and the catalyst for the explosive growth we've witnessed in our region's logistics sector in recent years. This free trade zone, which will have a focus on innovation, low carbon and trade, signals the direction of travel for the East Midlands economy – giving investors something tangible to back in order to deliver the inward investment and jobs that will enable growth.”

Clare James, East Midlands Airport's Managing Director, said: "I’m delighted that the Government has recognised enormous potential in the East Midlands and how it will be enhanced by a Freeport in the region. This news will shine a spotlight on a part of the country which has so much to offer investors, existing businesses that wish to grow, and the supply chains that are linked to them.

"The global connectivity that East Midlands Airport brings to the bid is more important than ever as the UK looks to strike trade deals around the world. Furthermore, as the region’s international gateway for people and products, it will continue to play a significant role in the Government’s ambition for a ‘global Britain’."

Mike Wallis, Executive Chairman of Spatial Global, said: "As an East Midlands business specialising in international shipping, mail and ecommerce, it means our existing customer base should benefit from the new ‘Free Port’ status.

"It will also encourage us to invest and innovate in our service offering. This combination should also be a major factor in attracting new customers to Spatial Global, which is based in Castle Donnington - at the heart of the new regional Free Port."

And North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen said: "This is fantastic news from the Chancellor for both North West Leicestershire and the wider region. This will attract investment, spur local and regional economic growth and enhance international trade. This will bring tens of thousands of new jobs and improved local infrastructure as the Government rolls out its levelling up agenda.

"Leaving the EU creates new opportunities for the UK to strengthen the union and become a hub for international trade and investment. Revitalising our port regions through an ambitious freeport policy is a key component of realising this vision and unlocking the deep potential of regions such as the East Midlands.

"We have the perfect logistical position for a freeport with the Airport supported by the East Midlands Gateway and superb road links both north to south and east to west. The airport is already a major trade hub, the UK’s busiest pure-freight airport, with more than 1,000 tonnes of cargo passing through every day and there is scope to at least treble that."

< Back