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At the gates of the European Union: British freeports and associated State aid issues


KeywordsTriple Keywords
Science, Political
Political science
Political theory
Commonwealth, The
Civil government
Political thought
Sovereignty--Law and legislation
State sovereignty (International relations)
Acts, Legislative
Legislative enactments
Laws (Statutes)
Enactments, Legislative
Legislative acts
Sharing economy
Distribution, Cooperative
Collaborative economy
Cooperative movement
Cooperative distribution
Peer-to-peer economy
Subject (Philosophy)


This paper is an update from an article published in Droit Maritime Français, n° 831 in January 2021, with the permission of the editor Deploying its vision of "Global Britain" in the port sector, the British government plans to create some free ports. In addition to an adapted customs regime, these ports and their surroundings will come with significant tax and social benefits. In addition to attracting maritime transport or port logistics companies to these ports, the idea is, through a regulatory differential with the EU, to attract companies, whatever their activity, including GAFAs. This way, and by means of free trade agreements signed with foreign States, particularly in Asia, the British government intends to create logistics, industrial and service hubs at the gates of the EU. Having recovered its sovereignty in competition law and notably State aid, the United Kingdom could create the regulatory environment favorable to its project. Indeed, European State aid rules do not, for the moment, apply to third countries. It is doubtful that the Agreement on Trade and Cooperation signed by the UK and the EU on December 24 th , 2020 would resolve "level playing field" issues in this domain. However, the European Commission and the Member States have been well aware, in recent months, of the distortion of competition created by foreign public subsidies. China and its State Owned Enterprises are of course concerned at first, receiving huge public support while benefiting from access to the European market. A White Paper was adopted in June 2020 on this subject and the question remains open whether its provisions could be effectively applied to the specific threat posed by the creation of the "British freeports". Tensions are expected between British and European Authorities with this regard, due to the strategic importance of this sector. This paper is an update from an article published in Droit Maritime Français, n° 831 in January 2021, with the permission of the editor.

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