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Chancellor Rishi Sunak's budget gives backing for Thames free port which could provide massive jobs boost and bring in millions of pounds


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Ambitious plans for a new Thames free port that could create thousands of jobs have taken a major step forward.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in his budget speech that the free port plan was one of eight he was giving the green light to.

The backers of the so-called Thames Freeport believe that it could play a major part in the regeneration of the area.

Self-proclaimed ‘Britain’s trading future,’ the project is spearheaded by DP World and Fourth Ports.

They hope to build a free port incorporating Tilbury Docks, near the Dartford Crossing, as well as London Gateway.

The group claims around 25,000 jobs could be created and the project would bring with it £400million in investment.

Going even further, the wider estuary regeneration aims to contribute £115billion to the national economy by 2050.

The free port plan hopes to boost the national economy as well as economies in Kent and Essex. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
The free port plan hopes to boost the national economy as well as economies in Kent and Essex. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

But not everyone is convinced that the claims made about the potential for a significant economic dividend from free ports are valid.

Under the government’s initiative, goods that arrive into free ports from abroad are exempt from the tax charges, called tariffs, that are normally paid to the government.

These taxes are only paid if the goods leave the free port and are moved elsewhere in the UK.

The government believes they have the potential to turbocharge the economy, in particular regions.

Mr Sunak said they would have "different rules to make it easier and cheaper to do business".

Tilbury Docks, near the Dartford Crossing, would form a core part of the free port infrastructure. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
Tilbury Docks, near the Dartford Crossing, would form a core part of the free port infrastructure. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

In England, companies inside the sites will also be offered temporary tax breaks, mostly lasting five years.

Mr Sunak said they were a route to “unlocking billions of pounds of private sector investment – generating trade and jobs up and down the country”.

Not everyone is convinced.

According to a report by the Think Tank “UK in a Changing Europe” the main beneficiaries will be the businesses and super-rich individuals who take advantage of the tax breaks they offer, while the public will bear the cost of the infrastructure required to make them function.

Its study concluded that free ports will “at best relocate, rather than create, economic activity and jobs, and are unlikely to lead to the sort of transformation the government hopes”.

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