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Freeport bids open amid EU deal warnings

Warning: George Eustice said ‘things need to move’ in EU trade talks

BIDDING for post-Brexit freeports has been opened ahead of a crunch week of trade talks with the EU.

Ports across England can now apply for ‘freeport’ status, turning them into trade hubs and offering tax relief.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the scheme ‘will create national hubs for trade, innovation and commerce, levelling up communities across the UK, creating new jobs and turbo-charging our economic recovery’.

Meanwhile, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost said a deal with the EU ‘may not succeed’ — but he was still hopeful of a resolution.

‘There has been some progress in a positive direction in recent days,’ he tweeted en route to Brussels.

And environment secretary George Eustice said ‘things need to move’, adding: ‘Time is very, very short.’

He admitted sheep farmers could be impacted if a deal is not agreed and tariffs as high as 35 per cent are imposed — but said dairy farmers would likely not be hit.

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney previously warned there will be no EU-UK trade agreement if Boris Johnson pushes ahead with legislation that would allow Britain to break international law.

■ FIFTEEN countries have agreed to set up the world’s largest trading bloc as they rebuild after pandemic. The ten nations in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), along with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand have signed the ‘landmark’ Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that covers nearly a third of all economic activity.