Thames Freeport set to become operational this month

Thames Freeport

Hornchurch and Upminster MP Julia Lopez hopes constituents will 'benefit from the transformation this freeport will bring'. - Credit: PA

Julia Lopez has said she is buoyed by the news that the Thames Freeport is set to become operational this month.

Reacting to the development confirmed in last week's autumn budget, the MP for Hornchurch and Upminster believes the move represents an "endorsement of the huge potential of the estuary".

Freeports are special economic zones where imports are allowed to enter without paying tariffs. 

Businesses operating inside designated areas in and around a freeport can manufacture goods using those imports, adding value before exporting again.

This relaxation of tax and customs rules makes it easier and cheaper to do business.

The Thames Freeport is focused on the development of electric and autonomous vehicles.

Eight such zones were given the go-ahead in the March budget, and now the first three are able to begin initial operations from this month.

In the 2019 election Ms Lopez pledged to push for development of the Thames Estuary; now she hopes her constituents will "benefit from the transformation this freeport will bring".

The supportive role played by the MP was acknowledged by colleague Neil O’Brien who confirmed the news.

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Mr O'Brien, the parliamentary under secretary of state for levelling up, the union and constitution, wrote: "I appreciate how important Freeports are to you and I am grateful for your endless support to deliver this programme."

Thames Freeport partners, including DP World and the Forth Ports Group. estimate that the zone is going to generate more than £4.5 billion in new public and private investment alongside creating 21,000-plus new jobs.

This group -  together with Ms Lopez - have been working for some time to highlight the freeport's potential, with the Hornchurch and Upminster MP particularly involved over the last 18 months.

The next step is to designate the freeport's tax site, which is expected around mid-November provided HMRC’s conditions for authorisation are met.

Prospective freeports in Humber and Teesside are also set to become operational this month.