The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)’s executive director – enforcement, Michael Grenfell, has outlined that Brexit could mean big changes to the government body’s remit.
During his keynote speech at the Advanced EU competition law conference, he detailed that for cases involving cartels, anti-competitive agreements and conduct (such as the catering equipment industry investigation the CMA completed in 2016), post-Brexit the UK will be allowed to tackle all anti-competitive practices that affect UK markets, UK consumers and UK businesses.
Currently, national competition authorities are prohibited from applying competition law to cases over which the European Commission chooses to exercise its jurisdiction.
Grenfell summarised: “Jurisdiction over many cases affecting UK markets, previously exercised exclusively by supranational institutions in Brussels and Luxembourg, will now be acquired by British authorities and courts.
“Post-Brexit, it will now be the UK’s own national institutions and courts that will be taking some of the bigger decisions that were previously reserved for determination elsewhere.”
He was positive about the UK’s ability to manage cases, saying: “Britain’s is a pretty mature and experienced competition regime, with real expertise in our courts, enforcement authorities and institutions, and excellent contacts and relationships across the globe.”
However, he did acknowledge that the CMA is asking workload and budgetary questions to central government: “It is true that we can expect a significant increase in our case load – taking on the mergers, cartels, anti-competitive agreements and abuses of dominance that were previously reserved to the European Commission, which are typically the bigger cases, as well as control of state aid, which will be a new activity for us – and naturally we need more staff for that.”
As this will require funding, the Chancellor announced in his spring statement in March that the government has allocated an additional £23.6m to the CMA budget for 2018-19 to enable it to prepare for the UK’s exit from the EU.
Grenfell concluded: “At this stage we don’t know exactly when the CMA will acquire jurisdiction over cases (or their UK aspects) previously reserved to the European Commission,” adding that after this does happen, the government body is planning to recruit “substantial numbers”.