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Over the summer, the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (“BEIS”) delivered the first decisions, in the form of final orders, under the National Security and Investment Act 2021 (“NSIA”).  We consider these decisions and other cases in the context of the first nine months of the UK’s new (quasi) Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”) regime.

Key takeaways:

  • The NSIA has broad reach, and BEIS has shown willingness to exercise the powers to review transactions that can stretch beyond mergers and acquisitions, for example, to licensing agreements.
  • NSIA review involves the weighing of a number of factors relating to the target, the acquirer and the level of control being obtained.  Early decisions suggest that target’s products/services and activities are just as important a factor as the acquirer’s identity, among the cases that have engaged the attention of the Investment Security Unit (“ISU”).
  • “Behavioural” undertakings, e.g. involving implementation of security controls or granting of audit rights to regulators appear to be a continuation of trends seen in the predecessor UK ‘public interest’ regime, and similar to other EU FDI procedures.


Continue Reading UK FDI: Decision-making practice emerging under the National Security and Investment Act

On 28 April 2022, the Subsidy Control Bill (the “Bill”) received Royal Assent, becoming the Subsidy Control Act 2022 (the “Act”).  The Act lays the basic framework for the new UK-wide subsidy control regime, which is now expected to come into force in Autumn 2022.  Although the Act primarily addresses UK public authorities and their legal obligations relating to the awarding of domestic subsidies, the new regime will be of particular interest to companies wishing to benefit from the more flexible post-Brexit subsidy regime moving forward.

Continue Reading UK Subsidy Control Bill granted Royal Assent

On 3 November, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) issued a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to replace the EU Vertical Agreements Block Exemption Regulation or ” VABER” with a UK Vertical Agreements Block Exemption Order (“UK Order”) when the VABER expires on 31 May 2022.  The VABER (which provides a safe harbour from the prohibition against anti-competitive agreements for vertical agreements that meet the applicable requirements) formed part of retained EU law following Brexit, but its upcoming expiry triggers the need for a UK Order to be issued in its place.

Continue Reading The UK CMA publishes its recommendation for replacing the retained Vertical Agreements Block Exemption Regulation

On 20 July 2021, the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (“DCMS”) and Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (“BEIS”) published proposals for a new regulatory regime for digital markets alongside accompanying consultation documents (the “Consultation”).  The Consultation seeks views from interested parties and closes on 1 October 2021.

Continue Reading New UK Digital Competition Regulation Regime Consultation Closes on 1 October 2021

What is happening and why?

On 30 June, the UK Government announced its draft Subsidy Control Bill (the “Bill”) which sets out the framework for how the UK will subsidise businesses post-Brexit.  The UK government has hailed the Bill as a major departure from the EU state aid rules.  In practice, the Bill provides a framework for implementing the UK’s international commitments on subsidy control, as set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement agreed with the European Union, and in other existing international trade obligations and World Trade Organisation (“WTO”) rules.

The Bill introduces a decentralised subsidy control framework outlining principles with which public authorities must comply when awarding subsidies.  One of the key aims of the Bill is to ensure that the subsidy control regime is not used to encourage a “race to the bottom” between different regions of the UK.

While there are some important differences as compared to the EU state aid regime, the fundamental principles are comparable and any subsidies given under the Northern Ireland Protocol will continue to be governed by EU rules.

Continue Reading The UK’s post-Brexit Subsidy Control regime — what to expect

On 13-14 July, Covington’s Peter Camesasca and Sophie Bertin participated in panels discussing developments in Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”) and Competition enforcement and compliance at the annual Competition Law Asia-Pacific Conference.

Foreign Direct Investment Regimes

On the first day of the conference, Covington partner Peter Camesasca moderated a group of diverse panellists on recent

On 16 February, John Penrose MP published his long-awaited report into the UK’s competition regime.  Penrose was tasked by the UK Government with reviewing how the UK’s competition regime can:

  1. Play a central role in meeting the challenges of the post COVID-19 economy and in driving recovery.  The Government’s Policy Paper stated that “the pandemic is the biggest threat the UK has faced in decades and overcoming it will require all the dynamism and creativity that exists across all sectors and in all regions and nations of the UK“;
  2. Contribute to the Government’s aim of levelling up across all nations and regions of the UK;
  3. Increase consumer trust, including by meeting the Conservative Party’s 2019 Manifesto commitment to tackle bad business practices, and ensure the competition regime is strong, swift, flexible and proportionate;
  4. Support UK disruptors taking risks on new ideas and challenging incumbents; and
  5. Make best use of data, technology and digital skills which are vital to the modern economy.


Continue Reading Proposals published for radical overhaul of UK competition regime following Brexit

As we now enter the third week of lockdown in the UK, this blog post rounds-up the steps that the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and certain other regulators have taken to address the unprecedented challenges facing the country.  This includes targeted relaxation of certain elements of the rules to facilitate essential forms of coordination, for example in relation to grocery supply, in addition to wider guidance on the CMA’s approach to enforcement in respect of COVID-19-related cooperation between competitors.

While certain, limited, forms of competition may be necessary to address critical supply challenges, getting such cooperation ‘right’ from a competition perspective can be complex. Firms should be aware that competition law continues to remain in force and that regulators have resolved to act against those who take advantage of the current crisis by breaching competition rules.
Continue Reading Competition law in the time of coronavirus: UK regulators’ response and approach to the COVID-19 pandemic