Mayor Ben Houchen welcomed Brexit Secretary David Davis to Teesport for a major speech formally setting out the UK’s aims for the transition period following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.
During the visit the Tees mayor and Secretary of State discussed the implications of Brexit for the region, setting out a positive vision for future trade and investment.
Mayor Houchen and PD Ports’ chief operating officer Jerry Hopkinson met Mr Davis at PD Ports, where the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union gave his address.
Mr Davis set out his plan for a timed Implementation Period, following the UK’s exit from the EU, providing certainty and clarity to business.
Addressing the specific opportunities for Teesport and the Tees Valley, Mr Davis assured the people of Teesside that the implementation period would continue to make the area successful.
He said the “prize” of the best possible access to the EU, while opening up greater access to the rest of the market, would be enormous for Teesport above all else.
Mr Davis went on to say that any transition period would and should not preclude the UK from signing independent trade agreements entering force post-implementation.
During the visit, Mayor Houchen took the opportunity to discuss the future of the Tees Valley post-Brexit and his plans to stimulate the local economy.
Mr Hopkinson and Boro chairman Steve Gibson, vice-chair of South Tees Development Corporation, both raised with Mr Davis the mayor’s proposal to the Chancellor, backed by 50 business leaders, for a study into the benefits of Free Port status for the Tees.
Responding, Mr Davis welcomed the proposal, and said Government would consider this proposal with the “most open mind possible”.
Mr Davis said that, post-Brexit, such plans would be much easier to establish and he would look forward to hearing more about the project.
Mayor Houchen said: “I was delighted to welcome the Brexit Secretary to Teesside today. He saw first-hand how we are ready to embrace the new and exciting freedoms and opportunities on offer after we leave the EU.
“When we leave the EU, an enormous amount of power and money will be transferred back to the UK. This is what I campaigned for, and this is what the people of the Tees Valley voted for.
“I told that Minister that these new powers repatriated from Europe should be devolved to our area, and that the Government should guarantee the replacement of EU funds to the Tees Valley after we leave.
“I also briefed the Minister on my campaign for Teesport to become a Free Port, as well as outlining my vision for the 4,500-acre South Tees Development Corporation site in Redcar.”
Mr Hopkinson, a member of the Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The Minister’s speech at Teesport today is a welcomed step forward in understanding the potential opportunities for international trade that Brexit might deliver; bringing greater clarity and certainty for businesses.
“What is important in the coming months is ensuring we have the best possible conditions in which we can attract further inward investment and create a platform for growth and help to develop long-term sustainable industries for the Tees Valley and the local and regional economy.
“Free Port status at Teesport would act as a catalyst to remove trade barriers and enable industry to thrive; creating employment and capitalising on the readily available skills the region is globally renowned for.”