East Midlands Freeport: A New Anti-Worker Tax Haven

On March 22 the East Midlands Freeport will formerly go live as our very own local tax haven. Earlier this month the Leicester Mercury had explained that:

“The one here covers three sites – East Midlands Airport and surrounding industrial estates in north Leicestershire and Derbyshire, the Ratcliffe on Soar power station redevelopment site in Notts, and the East Midlands Intermodal Park near the Derbyshire Toyota plant. It is one of eight freeports being created across the UK under plans rolled out by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to streamline planning rules, offer tax reliefs and business rates reliefs, and allow businesses to import and export without tariffs or red tape. The Government believes the three East Midlands “tax sites” will support 61,000 jobs and bring an extra £8.9 billion into the local economy over 30 years.”

This however is all just Tory propaganda, as is the myth that the freeport will promote so-called “green growth.” Moreover, t was notable that of all the political leaders quoted in the Mercury article, not one Labour Party politician is mentioned. It seems that rather than oppose the creation of a DP World styled tax haven on our doorstep our local Labour politicians would rather remain silent.

One of the major local organisations involved in supporting this scheme so far has been the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP), which only contains one board member from the City Council. Until early 2021 this elected member was Sir Peter Soulsby, but after his resignation he was replaced by Cllr Danny Myers, who is the Assistant City Mayor for Policy Delivery and Communications.

In a sane world our local Labour representatives would have been campaigning hard and publicly against freeports which represents one of the Tories flagship policies which they will use to undermine trade union rights in our country, but sadly this never happened. Instead, the people of Leicester have a Labour-dominated Council that seems fully resigned to accepting Tory misrule in whatever form it may come.

The trade union movement have of course always opposed freeports, and in response to Rishi Sunak’s March 2021 Budget statement, the RMT warned that the creation of free ports “will create a two tier workforce and turn these regions into bargain basements for multinational companies to enjoy increased profits at the expense of workers’ safety, employment rights and public services.”

Even the government’s Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has spoken out against the alleged benefits of the freeports noting: “We have assumed that the main effect of the freeports will be to alter the location rather than the volume of economic activity. So the costs have been estimated on the basis of activity being displaced from elsewhere.”

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