How the UK's vote to leave the EU in the "Brexit" referendum could affect competition law
- Merger control: Currently, mergers which hit the UK and EU Merger Regulation (EUMR) notification thresholds benefit from the EU 'one-stop shop' and need only be notified to the European Commission. The UK will fall outside this regime post-Brexit and both EU and UK notifications will be required, with additional time and costs burdens.
- Competition compliance: The UK competition authorities and Courts will cease to be bound by EU competition jurisprudence and, over time, the UK and EU competition rules will diverge. In practice, any company doing business in the EU will still be caught by the EU rules and so this could increase the regulatory burden as compliance with both the EU and UK regimes would be necessary.
- Competition investigations: UK companies doing business in the EU could still be subject to antitrust investigations by the European Commission. The Commission only recognises legal privilege for EEA qualified lawyers and so advice from UK-qualified lawyers would not be protected.
- State aid: The EU rules currently prevent some forms of support and investment by UK Government in UK business - it would have more scope to do so post-Brexit (but would lose the ability to challenge protectionism by other EU Member States).
- Single market: UK companies will no longer be bound by the rules relating to the EU single market and may have greater scope to protect their businesses from EU competitors, such as through import / export bans currently unlawful.