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Brexit: Island to monitor UK’s free port plans

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POST-Brexit plans to introduce ‘free ports’ in the UK which could act in a similar way to offshore finance centres are being monitored by Jersey’s government.

(27202600)

Last week the UK government launched a consultation on plans to create ten ‘free ports’ – where customs duties do not apply – to allow smooth international trade to continue, while border checks are carried out further inland.

It has also been proposed that the zones could have lighter taxes, regulation and planning restrictions in order to boost investment in the surrounding area.

Some commentators have suggested that such zones could potentially be used as low-tax enclaves similar to existing offshore financial centres, such as Jersey.

Post-Brexit trade flow has been a long-standing issue for the Island, due to concerns that new tariffs or trade restrictions could disrupt supplies of food and medicines from UK ports.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Executive said that the matter was being monitored by the government, including for potential opportunities.

‘Officials in the Government of Jersey are in regular contact with counterparts within the UK Government on matters of trade and supply chains to the Island,’ they said.

‘We have been aware of the free-ports proposal and consultation since last summer and will maintain a watching brief on the next steps undertaken by the UK.

‘As our closest trading partner and most significant relationship, we welcome any endeavour that benefits the wider British economy.

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‘While the introduction of free ports is unlikely to have a direct impact on the Channel Islands, we will look closely at any opportunities it may present.’

Meanwhile, Jersey Finance chief executive Joe Moynihan said that his industry was ‘not particularly concerned’ by the establishment of free ports as potential rival low-tax centres.

‘The idea of free ports has been well trailed as part of the UK’s reframing of its future trade arrangements,’ he said.

‘So it’s not a surprising move or one that we are particularly concerned about from a finance industry perspective.

‘We offer quite a different, complementary proposition to the UK and it will be the same qualities that will continue to attract business here, including political and economic stability, specialist expertise built up over decades, a pragmatic and robust regulatory framework and legal infrastructure.

‘[We also have] an environment that is familiar, tried and tested and conducive to facilitating high quality cross-border investment.’

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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