Brexit “has given us the freedom to establish eight freeports across the country”

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister’s Questions

June 23, 2021

Facts

At PMQs, Johnson told MPs that Brexit “has given us the freedom to establish eight freeports across the country”.

But the EU has never prevented Britain from creating freeports.

As of 2020, there were 80 “free zones” in the EU across 21 member countries. And even during its time as a member of the trading bloc, the UK also had its own freeports, including in Liverpool and Glasgow. In total the UK had seven freeports in the period 1984 to 2012.

It’s not the first time senior members of the government have been challenged on their claims about freeports and the EU.

In 2019, Boris Johnson claimed “the UK does not have free ports because of its membership of the EU”. The BBC’s Reality Check team reported that this was incorrect.

And in the same year, Rishi Sunak said: “The EU is the only place where these [free ports] really don’t exist”. The fact-checking charity Full Fact pointed out that there are freeports in the EU, though they are more limited than they would be in other parts of the world owing to the trade bloc’s rules on state aid. So the word “really” gave Mr Sunak some more wriggle room.

But unlike his Downing Street neighbour, Boris Johnson put no such caveat on yesterday’s claim. 

Verdict

Boris Johnson and his ministers have often cited freeports as one of the benefits of Brexit. Other examples can be found here and here. This claim from Johnson is as misleading as all the others. His full statement remains uncorrected on the Commons record in defiance of the Ministerial Code

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