Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister for the Economy what independent research she has (i) commissioned; and (ii) consulted on regarding the role that freeports can play in incentivising international trade, boosting innovation and regenerating disadvantaged areas post-Brexit.
Minister for the Economy: I want to ensure that the emerging UK Government Freeport proposals are shaped in a manner which can drive economic growth in Northern Ireland and bolster our medium to longer term response to the Covid pandemic.
It is important to get this policy right and I am exploring, alongside Executive colleagues, how a Freeport can complement and magnify our economic ambitions in a way that supports a regionally balanced economy. Alongside our own internal analysis, my Department has commissioned research from the Institute for Export and International Trade to inform that assessment.
My officials engage regularly, alongside DoF colleagues who are leading on this work from an NI perspective, with their UK Government counterparts on this emerging policy. They participated in a series of consultation events organised by HMT, and engagement has continued with a range of stakeholders, conscious of the potential for a future Freeport allocation process.