When the UK left the EU on 31 December 2020, the Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) gained new powers, functions and responsibilities previously exclusively reserved to the European Commission (the “Commission”).

This blog explores how the CMA has tackled its increased workload in the first year post-Brexit, under the shadow of the global pandemic, and the extent to which the CMA’s practice has diverged from EU law.

Continue Reading Trends, developments and divergence from EU law? The CMA’s first year as a global competition authority

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

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 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

The UK Government published its highly-anticipated technical guidance on merger review and anti-competitive activity on 13 September 2018 which will apply in the case of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit (the ‘Guidance’). Although brief, it provides market players with some form of practical advice and insights on what to expect, how cases are likely to be divided between the EU and UK regimes, how UK competition law will develop, and suggests in what ways post-Brexit competition damages actions in the UK Courts may change. This Guidance follows on from the previously released ‘no-deal’ state aid guidance – as was covered in our previous Covington alert – forming part of a larger suite of ‘no-deal’ Brexit guidance papers released by the Government in recent weeks.

The Guidance provides several key pieces of practical advice for businesses regarding different types of competition law processes in the wake of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
Continue Reading The UK Government Issues ‘No-deal’ Competition and Merger Guidance

The Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) has published its third Annual Competition Report which focusses on its proposals for promoting competition and innovation, particularly with respect to the impact of FinTech on UK financial services. It also addresses the FCA’s ongoing role in supporting the UK Government prepare for Brexit, and uphold an orderly transition as part of the withdrawal process – avoiding any cliff edges – for UK financial markets.

Continue Reading UK’s Financial Conduct Authority gives guidance on future priorities, FinTech and Brexit