Island monitors UK’s ‘free port’ plans post-brexit

by Jonathan Adams

Jersey’s government is monitoring the UK’s post-brexit plans to introduce ‘offshore finance centres-type’ free ports

Jersey’s government is monitoring the UK’s post-brexit plans to introduce ‘free ports’, similar to offshore finance centres.

The UK government launched a consultation last week on plans to create ten ‘free ports’ to allow smooth international trade to continue.

Border checks are proposed to be carried out further inland.

The plan also aims to boost investment in areas around the zone, with less stringent taxes, regulation and planning restrictions at these zones.

It has been suggested by some commentators that such zones may act as low-tax enclaves similar to the 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.

‘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.’

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