Does the UK need to leave the EU to create Freeports?


That Freeports are new to the United Kingdom and something the country was prevented from doing whilst part of the EU.

Boris Johnson, July 2019

“We could do freeports. It would be a massive boost to this economy…We don’t because of our membership of the EU”

Rishi Sunak, 1 August 2019

“The EU is the only place where these [free ports] really don’t exist…”

James Cleverly, BBC Radio 4 Interview

“use that opportunity of Brexit to do the kind of things that we’ve been precluded from doing for decades, including free ports.”

Source: Liz Truss’s Tweets on Freeports.

Johnson again states Freeports can only be achieved by Brexit – PMQs 8 July 2020.


Institute for Government

Did the EU prevent the United Kingdom from creating freeports?

No. The UK could create freeports as a member of the EU. Indeed, the UK has previously been home to several freeports, including Liverpool, Southampton, the Port of Tilbury and Glasgow Prestwick Airport. There was a total of seven freeports between 1984 and 2012, when the UK legislation that established their use was not renewed.

There are currently 80 free zones within the EU, located across 21 member states. There are 24 in England alone. These zones vary in design and can be geared towards particular industries, like bio-sciences at Manchester Airport or advanced manufacturing in Tees Valley.

BBC Reality Check verdict

It is not true to say you can’t have free ports or tax-free zones if you are a member state of the EU. There are more than 80 such zones across the Union. It would be easier to take advantage of potential benefits outside the EU.

European Commission

Free zones

Member States may designate parts of the customs territory of the Union as ‘free zones’; these free zones must be communicated to the European Commission.