Freeports in the UK: Securing the Benefits, Preventing Crime

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How can the UK reap the benefits of its proposed freeports while mitigating criminal risks, and are the fears of a lightly regulated ‘Singapore-on-Thames’ unfounded?

In February 2020, the UK government launched a consultation on its plans to establish up to 10 freeports in the UK. The consultation paper envisions freeports as ‘humming hubs of high-quality manufacturing’ and ‘titans of transhipment’, which will stimulate trade, investment and job creation. This will be achieved by exempting goods in freeports from otherwise applicable customs duties as well as, in all likelihood, providing tax and planning incentives.

Yet the experience of other countries shows that, for all their economic advantages, freeports also have a darker side to them, namely the potential for illicit trade and money laundering to flourish in an environment where customs controls are relaxed.

Will it be possible for the UK to reap the benefits of freeports while mitigating their alleged criminal risks? Our panel of experts discussed this and what controls will need to be in place to do so.

Speakers included:

  • Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive at British Ports Association
  • Clay Fuller, Principal at Fuller Solutions LLC and adjunct professor of political science at Western Carolina University
  • Irene Mia, Global Editorial Director at the Economist Intelligence Unit

The discussion will be chaired by Alexandria Reid, Research Analyst, RUSI.

This webinar will be on the record.

RUSI is currently undertaking a two-year study on assessing the integrity of free-trade zones around the world and understanding factors that can render them vulnerable to criminal exploitation. If you would like to discuss this project with RUSI’s research team, please contact

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SEE ALSO Free Ports, Not Safe Havens: Preventing Crime in the UK’s Future Freeports

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