What would be the impact of Brexit on UK and EU competition law and policy?
This is the question which Preiskel & Co LLP partner Tim Cowen addresses in a key chapter to the 2015 Regent’s Report, the latest edition of the influential annual report on global policy and related issues.
In his chapter, Tim Cowen explores Brexit and other key aspects of the current relationship between the UK and the EU in competition law and policy. He concludes:
There are four main issues that should concern policymakers were the UK to leave the EU:
a) without the enforcement of EU law, which prohibits subdividing markets along national lines, prices in our national market could well rise;
b) enforcement by the EU competition authority alongside national enforcement effort would no longer be available;
c) UK operators would have no recourse against perceived unfairness in state aid distortions in favour of companies in other states;
d) Brexit opens the prospect of increased political intervention in UK business practice, particularly as concerns mergers and acquisitions.
As national competition law does not make the Single Market a goal of national policy, the government of the day would be free to provide aid to businesses with no obvious redress for rivals that suffer as a consequence. UK businesses would also lose the right to challenge state aid given by other European governments to their competitors. As businesses would not be prevented legally from separating the UK from the European market, prices for consumers would certainly rise, and there would be popular opposition if UK consumers were blocked from purchasing online equivalent goods at lower prices in the EU.