Anyone interested in post-Brexit freeports will have been following the ongoing campaign by whinging left-wingers to get the Teesside Freeport shut down. Rather than predicting their anti-freeport arguments on Remainerism, they’ve instead relied on arguments about supposed environmental damage.
In October, Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham – whose constituents will benefit massively from the freeport – called for the suspension of coastal dredging, “in light of the compelling evidence presented by [Gary Caldwell] at the EFRA Select Committee.” In Cunningham’s letter to Therese Coffey, he wrote of “devastating testimony” given by Dr Gary Caldwell, which was “alarming… compelling and persuasive.”
Caldwell is a marine biologist at Newcastle University, who claimed that the solvent pyridine was being detected in high concentrations in dead crabs, which “could have been released while dredging.” In other words, Dr Caldwell whipped up a bunch of left-wing MPs into believing the Teesside Freeport was killing crabs.
After the chair of the EFRA committee demanded an urgent inquiry into dredging in Teesside, DEFRA’s Chief Scientific Advisor duly set one up, comprising a panel of independent experts. It published its report today. Guess what? They find dredging as a cause of the crab deaths to be “exceptionally unlikely”.
“The CMEP is not aware of any capital dredging being undertaken in the period leading up to this unusual mass mortality event. The port advises that the last capital dredging took place from September to December 2020 (Able UK’s deepening of Able Seaton Port berths, holding basin and Seaton Channel). Capital dredging at Teesworks did not commence until September 2022, nearly a year after initial observations of unusual crustacean mortality.
The Port Authority confirmed these dates, and that there was no reported capital dredging between December 2020 and September 2022. The panel therefore considers it exceptionally unlikely that capital dredging on the Tees caused the unusual crustacean mortality seen in this region between these dates.
On that basis, capital dredging is not considered further in this report.”
Instead, the panel “consider it is about as likely as not, that a pathogen new to UK waters caused the unusual crustacean mortality.”
Responding to the report’s findings, Teesside MP – and former Secretary of State for Levelling Up – Simon Clarke slams Labour for desperately leaping for conspiracy theories to try and sabotage the Freeport project:
“Today’s report is clear and compelling, and shows definitely that dredging on the Tees has nothing to do with the tragic crustacean die-off.
For months now, me and my Conservative colleagues have been saying we need to follow the science and wait for the investigation.
On the other hand, Labour politicians have been jumping on every conspiracy theory that moves in the despicable hope of sabotaging jobs and livelihoods in Teesside.”
Among all of this artificial fearmongering over the Teesside Freeport, Guido notes that no media outlet covering the claims by Dr Cardwell ever mentioned he is an active member of the Green Party, who participates in anti-freeport protests in his spare time.
Already, the left has moved on to trying to discredit the independent report. Labour MP Geraint Davies claimed the report had sceptically been published on a day parliament isn’t sitting – fact check: parliament is sitting today – and implies the independent panel was biased in DEFRA’s favour. Local anti-freeport environmental groups are openly talking about how “we must immediately discredit the report”, hoping the Green Party activist Dr Cardwell will be appearing on our TV sets shortly to do just that. Sorry guys, facts don’t care about your feelings. Now let’s get Britain dredging for growth…
Find the independent expert report in full below: