5 September 2022

To level up and boost post-Brexit growth, a freeport on Anglesey is a clear winner

By Virginia Crosbie MP

There is no doubt that the Northern Ireland Protocol has damaged trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as trade between GB and the Republic of Ireland. Liz Truss has been robust on wanting to make sure that damage is corrected as a matter of urgency for the people of Northern Ireland. It is Liz who succeeded in pushing the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill through the House of Commons, unamended.

But the damage to trade across the Irish Sea as a result of Brexit is not limited to issues of direct movements between GB and NI, as anyone who has traded in the region knows. The central corridor between Dublin and Holyhead has historically played a critical role in
transporting goods not just between GB and NI but also between the island of Ireland and continental Europe.

The additional customs checks and increased costs associated with post-Brexit movement of goods between the EU and the UK have led to many logistics operators turning their backs on the traditional landbridge and Holyhead-Dublin route to find alternatives which
avoid the UK altogether.

Given rapidly increasing transportation costs this can only result in price rises for the end-consumer which is the last thing anyone needs in a cost of living crisis. However, there is a solution at the fingertips of our government that could help mitigate a lot of this. One that could revive this central corridor, re-establish the GB Landbridge, help resolve the GB/NI issues raised by Brexit and address other government priorities in one fell swoop: a freeport on Anglesey.

Wales is two years behind England in enacting the Government’s plans to introduce freeports across the UK. However, with eight freeports already going ahead in England, the publication of the Welsh Freeport Prospectus and Liz Truss’ hustings pledge for ‘full-fat freeports’, the timing could not be better. As the Chair of the Anglesey Freeport Bidding Consortium, the prospect of Liz leading our country into a long-promised post-Brexit era of reduced regulation and bureaucracy excites me. The thought of Anglesey being at the
forefront of this revolution positively thrills me!

Holyhead is the second busiest roll on, roll off port in the UK, making Anglesey a prime location for a freeport. Given that Anglesey has one of the lowest GVAs in the country, a freeport would bring much needed jobs and investment to Holyhead, chiming perfectly with the current levelling up zeitgeist.

Anglesey is also rich in natural resources which, if given the right support and incentives, will help give the UK net zero energy for the long haul. Companies like Morlais and Minesto are capitalising on the island’s tidal flows for energy production, whilst large scale offshore wind farms are being proposed by the likes of BP Mona. Alongside renewables, Anglesey is also home to one of the best potential new nuclear sites in the world – Wylfa.

If Liz Truss wants to supercharge the economy, maximise the use of available brownfield sites, tackle climate change, address the cost of living and secure our future energy provision – Anglesey is a clear winner.

By pulling the levers of simplified customs and trade facilitations and regulatory easements, a freeport on Anglesey would lift the burdens on business creation and accelerate the investments that are so needed in the UK right now. We can achieve so much progress on
our plans for the UK by encouraging development at pace through the economic freedoms that a freeport would permit.

Reduced build costs, simplified customs processes, fast-track approvals would all contribute to tackling the significant challenges we are facing as a country now.

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Virginia Crosbie is Conservative MP for Ynys Mon.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.