Treasury minister praises Grimsby and Immingham exports and pushes for free port

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 22 Jun 2018

A Treasury minister has praised Immingham and Grimsby ports as new figures reveal that £10.6 billion of goods were cleared through the docks last year, and also further promoted the idea of a free port.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss visited Immingham alongside constituency MP Martin Vickers as they celebrated the recent increase in goods leaving the port, which show that exports to the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America are at an all time high.

Treasury minister Liz Truss speaks at Immingham Docks

Ms Truss believed that the export figures show the willingness of the rest of the world to want to trade with the UK, and that this is a good sign for the country as it prepares to leave the the European Union, showing that there are a vast number of opportunities out there for local businesses to grow and thrive.

She said: "What theses figures show is that exports are booming and the port is doing extremely well, with new investment going in, more goods are being traded here and there are good opportunities for the future.

"I am here today to talk with local business and the port itself about how we can turbo charge that, and see what government can do and the new freedoms we can give to the area that will help businesses succeed in the future."

Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers has been a champion of the free port concept for Grimsby and Immingham, frequently raising the topic in the House of Commons, and the Treasury minister was fully supportive of this, feeling that it could enhance the local economy greatly.

It has been suggested that a free port could increase family incomes in North East Lincolnshire by over £1,000 a year.

Conservative MP Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, pictured with Martin Vickers MP for Cleethorpes, during a visit to Immingham docks.

Liz Truss said: "I think it (a free port) is a very interesting idea - a free port can mean many different things.

"It could be planning freedoms, regulatory freedoms or arrangements at the border, and I am here today to find out what local people want and what options can be explored.

"I don't have any specific figures, but what we know is that the more trade that there is, the more growth there is, the more jobs there are locally and more opportunities.

"One of the things that I am interested in is how we can bring jobs that previously had gone offshore in areas such as processing and manufacturing back to the UK and what freedoms could we explore to achieve that.

"We are at the early stages, but we know that being a country open to the rest of the world, trading with the rest of the world, will bring huge benefits to local people."

READ MORE: Humber free port would make every household £1,500 richer, says top economist

Despite the growth in exports and trade with countries outside of the EU, Europe is still the primary trading partner for the UK, and when pressed about whether or not the minister felt that Brexit could affect these figures, she stressed that trade with the EU is still very important and that her government would be looking to see if they can get "the best of both worlds" going forward.

She continued: "What we want to see is the best of both worlds, of course we have very important trade with the EU and we need to have as frictionless trade as possible to maintain and grow that.

"But at the same time we have these growing nations that want to open themselves up to the world such as Brazil or South East Asia and we need to be doing more trade with those countries as well.

"We want our own independent trade policy so we have a deal that suits the UK, we have very different issues in trade deals than the EU, but we want to see them prosper as well."

The Chief Secretary also spoke optimistically about the proposed £40 million Grimsby Town Deal, saying that the Business Secretary is planning to visit the area soon to talk about the deal, and felt that Grimsby is an area with "huge potential".

She said: "Martin is determined that the Grimsby Town Deal will be successful, and I am sure that it will."

Following the Immingham visit, Ms Truss joined dignitaries at Young's Seafood's Ross House HQ in Grimsby.

Liz Truss with Ian Kelly, left, and Martin Vickers. 

Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dr Ian Kelly was present to meet her, and support the idea of the Humber ports becoming a “free port cluster".

ABP will now work up detailed proposals for Mr Vickers to hand to the Minister as the Chamber, ABP, the Humber LEP, Humberside Airport and Young’s all confirmed that they were confident there would be overwhelming local business support for the idea.

Dr Kelly said: “At our Chamber Council meeting there was unanimous support to the Free Port idea which is common place across the world with over 3,500 globally located in 135 countries and covering 66-million people.

“We feel it would inject real momentum into both the Humber economy as the ‘Energy Estuary’ and reinforce the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse this side of the Pennines.

“The right kind of combination of duty exemptions, duty referral, tariff inversion and tax incentives which usually compose a free port would add to the current enterprise zone areas we have and make us very attractive to global investors interested in building on our renewables, ports and logistics, petrochemicals and food manufacturing capabilities.”

Following on from Ms Truss' visit, Steve Gillingham, director for the North at Mace, said: “It’s great to see a renewed focus on the UK’s northern ports this week.  The latest data from Immingham and Grimsby demonstrates once again, that our ports are a significant contributor to UK plc and have the potential to both transform and rebalance the national economy.  

“However, if our northern ports are to truly reach their full potential, they need to have the right powers in place.  Mace launched a report earlier this week which demonstrates how this might be achieved.  Creating seven supercharged free ports in the North of England would transform the national economy and create thousands of jobs, helping to improve the lives of thousands. This would be a huge opportunity for jobs and business in the region and crucially it would be neither difficult or complicated to implement.” 

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