Any freeport in the Liverpool City Region will not be supported if it threatens workers’ rights or standards.
That is the warning from Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram to the government.
Later today the city region’s Combined Authority will consider a report asking for consent for officials to draw up a bid for a freeport site in the city region.
Ahead of the meeting Mayor Rotheram said that while it is right the city region considers what potential benefits there might be from a freeport, he will not allow it to become a race to the bottom on rights or standards.
Freeports or zones are designated by the government as areas within a set geographical location that benefit from customs incentives in order to encourage economic activity.
Companies operating within freeports can take advantage from the deferment of taxes until their products are moved elsewhere, or can avoid them altogether if they bring in goods to store or manufacture on site before exporting them again.
The freeports policy is known to be heavily supported by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak who is aiming for 10 sites around the UK.
There has been speculation that additional government funding will be available for areas which are successful in securing freeport status.
While any freeport would boost the Port of Liverpool, there is also potential for sites in St Helens, Halton and Wirral to be included in any bid to Government.
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “Freight and logistics; advanced manufacturing and clean growth are vitally important sectors for the Liverpool City Region’s economy. As our region grapples with the financial impacts of the pandemic, we are constantly looking for new ways to keep growing and recovering.
“It is with the goal of economic recovery in mind that we are considering the possibility of bidding for a freeport in the Liverpool City Region and what the consequences of that would be.
“We have a duty to look at the any potential benefits for the whole city region that could potentially be a big shot in the arm to the local economy, especially with all of the uncertainty of the post-Brexit, post-pandemic world we emerge into.
“However, I have made it clear that I will not accept any proposals that will lead to a dilution of workers’ rights; health and safety, or regulatory standards - and I know that other local leaders feel the same. I will not accept a race to the bottom and will only support a scheme that brings demonstrable benefits to people across our region.
“Therefore, if a bid is to move forward, I will be ensuring that mechanisms are embedded within any freeport structures to protect standards and uphold workers’ rights as a prerequisite of any further progress.”
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Concerns are growing regarding the government's plans for workers' rights post-Brexit.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has confirmed his department is reviewing how EU employment rights protections could be changed now that the UK has left the bloc.
Reports have suggested this will include a review of the working time directive, which sets a maximum 48-hour working week.