THE future of Newport's application to set up a free-trade zone in the city are shrouded in mystery after a bidding process closed.

The UK Government said three bids have been received from ports around Wales to be the home of a new freeport - a special economic area where more liberal tax and customs regulations apply.

Newport City Council's leader said last year the city was preparing an application, but this week the UK Government remained tight-lipped on which three bidders had reached the final stage.

The UK Government's Department for Levelling Up is running the bidding process, which will be conducted privately.

Three three finalists will now be jointly assessed by officials from the UK and Welsh governments.

It is expected that the successful site will be announced in early 2023 before becoming operational later in the year.

The UK Government is touting its freeport policy as one which will "create jobs, boost the local economy and regenerate surrounding areas".

The successful bidder in Wales will receive around £26 million in funding from Westminster.

David Davies, Monmouth MP and secretary of state for Wales, said: "It is fantastic to take the next step in delivering a freeport for Wales. It will bring jobs and prosperity to its surrounding region and provide a huge boost to the Welsh economy.

"The UK Government has long been committed to bringing a freeport to Wales and is delivering on that pledge. The freeports programme is already returning benefits for businesses and communities elsewhere in the UK and I look forward to seeing similar results for Wales."