BOSSES at a North-East port have claimed freeport status will be a "catalyst" for economic growth across the Tees Valley, but have warned they are also reviewing their operations in case Britain "crashes out" of the EU with no-deal.

Last week, the Government gave the strongest indication yet that it would introduce freeport status to Teesport, with International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, saying the site is "very ahead of the game".

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Research has shown it could create tens of thousands of new jobs in the region, and Jerry Hopkinson, PD Ports’ chief operating officer, said it could "drive industry which is globally moveable to choose to locate in the Tees Valley".

However, he also warned PD Ports was "mindful" of the continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit, adding they have looked at "various aspects of our modus operandi" in preparation for a no-deal exit.

Freeports include customs and tax benefits, with the aim of reducing costs and bureaucracy, encouraging manufacturing businesses to set up or re-shore.

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Mr Hopkinson said: "I don’t think this is simply about Teesport, although Teesport is a fundamental element of the freeport ambition, it is more about what it will bring to the area.

"What the freeport industry does is help to catalyse ambition – it is not a silver bullet, it is a catalyst that could drive industry, which is globally moveable, to choose to move to the UK, and to locate in the Tees Valley.

"What it is definitely not about is taking existing business already operating in the Tees Valley, and putting it into a free zone."

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Discussing the implications of Brexit, Mr Hopkinson said: "The way I see it, regardless of the position you took, leaving the EU creates an opening in respect of freeports.

"Freeports to a lesser extent are deliverable in the context of the EU, but this is more the full fat model which arises with us leaving the EU totally. With that in mind, I do see it as a major opportunity, but will it offset the disbenefits of leaving the EU as some people would say? I don’t know.

"We're mindful (of no deal). We’ve looked at various aspects of our modus operandi and what that might mean in terms of a crash out on October 31."

Last week, the Government announced plans to create up to ten tariff-free zones across the UK once Britain leaves the EU.