Liz Truss promises ‘full-fat freeports’ and to cut business red tape

Foreign secretary goes head to head with former chancellor over policy he has always actively supported

Britain's Foreign Secretary and Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss. AP
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Liz Truss has pledged to introduce “full-fat freeports” in a bid to boost the growth of the UK economy.

Ms Truss, the front-runner to replace Boris Johnson as Conservatives leader and British prime minister, has also promised to cut red tape and boost investment as part of her bid to defeat rival Rishi Sunak.

The Foreign Secretary's latest campaign policy could be a seen as an attempt to steal the limelight from Mr Sunak, who has been an advocate of freeports since his days as a backbench MP and has styled himself as the “common-sense Thatcherite” candidate.

The plan from Ms Truss, regarded as the candidate of the Tory right wing and the most popular with the grassroots, comes with new promises of reducing regulation and cutting Whitehall bureaucracy.

The Truss campaign said that the plans would see brownfield sites and other locations turned into investment zones, called “full-fat freeports”.

“As prime minister, I will be laser-focused on turbo-charging business investment and delivering the economic growth our country desperately needs," Ms Truss said.

“We can’t carry on allowing Whitehall to pick the winners and losers, like we’ve seen with the current freeport model."

Freeports became one of the flagship, post-Brexit policies for Mr Johnson's government, with several freeport locations announced by then-chancellor Mr Sunak last year.

“Brexit will provide the UK with new economic freedom, and the government should take the opportunity to create freeports across the nation,” the then-junior Tory MP wrote in a think-tank report in 2016.

The aim is to boost economic activity near ports or airports, with the sites benefitting from tariff exemptions on imports.

Under her plan, Ms Truss said that the investment zones would benefit from a low tax burden, reduced planning restrictions and regulations tailored on an individual basis.

She also ties the plan into the government’s levelling-up pledge, claiming that the investment zones will create new model zones akin to Saltaire and Bournville.

Everything you need to know about Liz Truss

Everything you need to know about Liz Truss

Ms Truss also says that she will reform current government policy to “unleash the potential” of current freeports.

“By creating these new investment zones, we will finally prove to businesses that we’re committed to their futures and incentivise them to stimulate the investment that will help deliver for hard-working people,” she said.

Updated: July 24, 2022, 9:37 PM