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Tees Valley mayor in bold post-Brexit bid

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The mayor of Tees Valley has written to the chancellor asking to create a free port status for his area.

Ben Houchen’s (Con) letter, co-signed by 50 businesses and business leaders, argues Tees Port could become a test case for more free ports after the UK leaves the European Union.

Mr Houchen said: “When we leave the EU, Britain will find itself with more freedoms than at any time in almost half a century.

“Free port status for Tees Valley will be transformational for local people. Not only would we become an international magnet for businesses wanting to set up here, it’ll also mean more jobs for local people.”

A free port status would allow for imported merchandise to be stored duty-free before being exported or face duty on entering the country. Hong Kong, Panama and Singapore all currently operate on a free port status, while the United States has appointed a number of ports similar free trade zones.

Mr Houchen’s proposal received the backing from a number of regional firms with a global market, including Hitachi Rail, Sirius Minerals, Liberty Steel and Quorn Foods.

Other supporters include MP for Middlesbrough South &  East Cleveland, Simon Clarke (Con), and MP for Redcar, Anna Turley (Lab). 

Mr Houchen, who campaigned in support of Brexit, said a free trade zone would create “further investment, jobs and a stronger regional and national economy”.

The EU currently gives Teesside £25m a year in structural and investment funds and Westminster has not released specific information about how that money would be replaced.

International trade secretary Liam Fox has previously said he wanted to open 40 free trade deals with non-EU countries “the minute Britain leaves the European Union”.

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