COUNCILLORS are lobbying for Larne and the wider Mid & East Antrim Borough Council area to be given ‘freeport’ status.
‘Freeports’ are tax-free trade zones aimed at boosting the economy and creating jobs.
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak recently said bidding for freeport status will open soon and the first wave will be up and running in late 2021.
The project is aimed at helping to drive economic growth after Brexit.
The special customs zones allow goods to be imported, stored, and exported without tariffs being imposed.
Parts can be processed into new products in the free trading zones, which supporters say would boost manufacturing jobs and other types of employment locally.
Charges are only imposed if the goods are put into the domestic market.
The first freeports will be opened in England but talks are underway with the devolved administrations about extending them across the UK.
It is believed there would be at least one ‘Freeport’ in Northern Ireland.
Larne councillor Gregg McKeen said Larne should be “put on the map as a freeport”.
He said it would be like an enterprise zone and he called on Mid & East Antrim Borough Council to push for Larne to be one of the ten ports in the UK to be given the special status.
Cllr McKeen said that would not just open up Larne but the whole Mid Antrim area.
Alderman Billy Ashe said it would be vital for regeneration of the area.
Councillor Timothy Gaston said the location did not necessarily have to be at a port and said he would like to see Ballymena and Carrick included alongside Larne.
He added: “When they are putting a ‘border’ down our Irish Sea I think it is the least they could do to give Mid & East Antrim a freeport”.
A Council report said areas like the former Michelin factory in Ballymena potentially be used in any ‘Freeport’.