Did Rishi “Come Up With the Idea of Freeports”?

During last night’s hustings, Rishi Sunak again made a questionable claim: that as a backbench MP he “came up with the idea of freeports”. Given they’ve existed around the world since before Rishi was even born, Guido had his doubts…

Not only were they were pushed domestically by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) in the 80s, Rishi himself wrote a full-length report for the Centre for Policy Studies claiming they were first introduced around 2,500 years ago in Delos. Last time Guido checked, Rishi was born in 1980, which is some time after the fall of Ancient Greece. 

Even so, it is fair to say he advocated for them in government. Here he is at the first meeting of the Freeports Advisory Panel in 2019 hosted by… Liz Truss:

Awkwardly for Rishi, the ASI’s Director Eamonn Butler happened to be there as well – and he claims it was Truss, in her trade role, who pushed the freeport concept in government. He tells Guido:

“I was asked by Liz to a meeting of experts in the Department of Trade to discuss the implementation of the policy. My heart sank when I entered the room, because it was full of Treasury civil servants, along with Rishi who then was Chief Secretary. It was Treasury reluctance to reduce taxes and paperwork that effectively killed the freeports of the 1980s, and it seemed to have muscled in again. I concluded that the idea would go nowhere. If Liz Truss as prime minister could square up to the Treasury, the idea might have a chance, bringing trade and jobs to the UK. But I fear that Rishi would be led by the Treasury mandarins, and nothing useful would happen.”

Meanwhile ASI President Madsen Pirie generously says “We don’t care who takes the credit. We just want it done“…

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