Brexit: Implications for UK Competition Law
22 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2017 Last revised: 1 May 2017
Date Written: February 25, 2017
This paper considers the impact of a British exit from the European Union on UK competition law.
The paper commences by summarising the current competition law regime in the UK, before going on to consider how Brexit may affect it both at the point of Brexit and over time. It notes that Brexit is unlikely to reduce the regulatory burden on British business in this sphere but, rather, may increase it. In particular, it increases the risk of ‘double jeopardy’ in terms of investigations and penalties for firms and raises the possibility that UK competition law will diverge further from EU law, so increasing complexity for business.
Brexit also provides the potential for the UK competition law system to become more politicised again, with greater scope for intervention on broader industrial policy grounds. There are already indications that the Government is considering these issues in the merger sphere. Between 1998-2003, however, the UK consciously moved away from a competition system which was subject to political interference to one focused on allowing independent competition agencies to safeguard competition. It was believed that such a regime would better protect the free market process and deliver efficiencies for the benefit of consumers. An important question therefore is whether the core of the current competition law rules will be preserved or whether the Government will return to a regime which is more susceptible to political interference.
Keywords: Brexit, competition law
JEL Classification: K21, L40, L49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation