COMMENT: Our freeport status can kickstart an exciting future
The news may have come right at the end of the Budget, but it was definitely worth waiting for.
Rishi Sunak's announcement that Solent is one of eight new freeports to be created is a fantastic boost for the region after what's undoubtedly been a very tough year.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt says it will be 'completely game-changing' for this area.
Meanwhile the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, which prepared the bid, is talking of the potential to attract £2bn investment and create 52,000 jobs.
Freeport status for Portsmouth and Southampton means using our break away from the EU and its regulations to create special economic zones that cut through red tape and make it cheaper and easier to do business in import and export.
As a freeport, we're told we’ll have simpler planning, cheaper customs – with favourable tariffs, VAT or duties – and lower taxes, with tax breaks to encourage construction, private investment and job creation.
Benefits include reductions to the tax companies pay on their existing property and when they buy new buildings.
Employers will also pay reduced national insurance for new staff.
It's not a new idea. Freeports, including Southampton, operated in the UK between 1984 and 2012.
But it feels like the right time to take advantage of the freedom and flexibility created by no longer having to follow restrictive EU rules.
If freeports give firms the ability to trade more easily in a post-Brexit, post-pandemic world, that has to be hugely beneficial.
So we look forward to our new status helping to encourage regeneration and innovation that can kickstart an exciting future for the region.