On 4 January 2023, the UK’s new subsidy control regime came into force, implementing a new subsidy regulation framework designed for the post-Brexit era. Underpinned by the Subsidy Control Act 2022 (the “Act”), related statutory instruments and government guidance, the new regime aims to grant public authorities the power to design and award subsidies in an agile way while complying with the UK’s international commitments on subsidy control. Key things you need to know:
- The UK’s new subsidy control regime seeks to provide a framework that allows public authorities to award subsidies efficiently, while ensuring that such subsidies do not distort the domestic market or fall foul of the UK’s international commitments on subsidy control.
- Public authorities are responsible for self-assessing a proposed subsidy or scheme’s compliance with the regime’s requirements.
- Proposed Subsidies and Schemes of Interest (“SSoIs”) and Particular Interest (“SSoPIs”), i.e. subsidies above certain thresholds or of certain importance, are subject to referral – voluntary (for SSoIs) and mandatory (for SSoPIs) – to the Competition and Market Authority’s Subsidy Advice Unit (“SAU”), which will provide non-binding advice regarding the proposed subsidy. The Government can exercise a “call-in” referral power, i.e. refer a subsidy or scheme to the SAU for review.
- Subsidies that qualify for assessment under a “Streamlined Route” (“SR”), i.e. subsidies that are less likely to cause distortions on the market and meet the relevant criteria set out by legislation, will not be subject to referral or the Government’s call-in powers.
- An awarded subsidy can be challenged in court, though during a relatively short (in many cases 30-day) window. A range of remedies are available to challenging parties, including prohibition, injunctions and recovery orders.