Boris handed Brexit trade masterplan: PM told freeports can make UK ‘maritime superpower’
Rishi Sunak discusses freeports announcement
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Ben Murray, Chief Executive of Maritime UK, was speaking at the end of a week in which his organisation has unveiled plans for a major recruitment drive which he predicts will create 170,000 jobs over the course of the next five to 10 years across seven coastal regions. The strategy has been drawn up in response to Chancellor Mr Sunak’s announcement in his Spring Budget, which will see the creation of an additional eight freeports around the UK.
Freeports are an important aspect of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit global vision, because they enable goods to be sent overseas without being liable for tariffs.
Mr Murray told Express.co.uk: “Our vision is to become a green maritime superpower.
“With more certainty now and with new climate targets being announced by the Prime Minister next week, our path to getting there feels clearer.”
He explained: “The single biggest problem coastal communities have faced is neglect.
“Once known for their pioneering spirit, successive governments let the traditional industries go with nothing to replace them, giving the youngest and brightest little reason to stay.
“And the coronavirus pandemic has hit our coastal towns the hardest. They have higher proportions of workers in the industries most affected by closures, such as tourism and retail.”
As an island nation, maritime had always been a huge part of the UK’s “national story”, Mr Murray stressed.
He explained: “With freeports, the government’s upcoming National Shipbuilding Strategy refresh and ambitious climate targets, we can look to the sea for our future prosperity and environmental sustainability.
“And with maritime being the lowest carbon way of moving goods, let’s get freight off roads and rail, and onto our waters.”
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Freeports would also benefit the UK’s fishing industry, buffeted as it has been by Brexit.
Mr Murray added: “Like all businesses, fishers will have a better business environment within freeport areas.
“But we don’t want these benefits to be limited to freeport areas, we want to spread these across the country for the UK’s entire fishing industry.
“This means taking elements of freeport package to all corners of our coast.”
Moreover, freeports would offer the UK a chance to stake a claim as a major international shipping hub.
Mr Murray said: “In many ways, we are the natural home of the global maritime industry.
“Not only because of our history, but also because of London, which houses the international leaders of maritime finance and law. The UN’s International Maritime Organization is also based here.”
The UK had a “golden opportunity” to become a major player, he predicted.
He continued: “But for this to happen, the government must match its ambitious climate targets with ambitious new funding and incentives for our industry.
“That includes for ‘shore power’ charging points at our ports to charge tomorrow’s Teslas of the seas, alongside investment in research and development to create the hydrogen capability to steer our ships in a green direction.
“But we’re on the right track. The government has included maritime in its plans for a green industrial revolution, and the new National Shipbuilding Strategy and details about the government’s net zero agenda are both on the horizon.”
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