Brexit Sunset Clause Risks Uncertainty for UK Competition Law

November 2, 2022

This blog post draws on the presentation given by Professor Catherine Barnard (University of Cambridge) at the ESRC ‘UK in a Changing Europe’, ‘UK Regulation after Brexit Revisited’ event held at the British Academy in London on 27th October 2022.

(by Andreas Stephan) The UK’s new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, promised to put EU laws through the ‘shredder’, as part of the leadership contest campaign video he released in August when running against his predecessor, Liz Truss. The Retained EU Law (Revocation and reform) Bill (REUL) promises to impose a sunset clause on 2,400 or so pieces of retained EU law, which will cause them to cease applying in the UK unless ministers actively act to keep them. This includes all secondary law (regulations and directives) and related case law of the European Commission and Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which plays an important role informing UK Competition Law (at least to the extent that it relates to EU case law delivered until 31 December 2020). This blog explains why the law could create significant uncertainty for the enforcement of UK competition law and what might be done about it.

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“Facts” from thin air in the CMA Chairman’s letter requesting greater powers?

March 8, 2019

(by Bruce Lyons) I recently posted a blog commenting on the CMA’s proposals for reform. I was sympathetic with the aims of eliminating unfair pricing and inefficient decision processes. However, I was highly critical of the CMA’s direction of travel and the worrying side effects of their proposals. I suggested two alternative proposals that would directly address the aims without the harm. In this short blog, I pick up two “facts” used by Lord Tyrie, Chairman of the CMA, to motivate the need for reform. These are particularly important because they relate to exactly the type of statistical evidence relied on by the CMA in its daily competition analysis: concentration and margins. Read the rest of this entry »

Why the CMA is wrong in its proposals for reform and what should be done instead

March 7, 2019

(by Bruce Lyons) The Chairman of the CMA, Lord Tyrie, has written a 44-page letter (including annex) to the Secretary of State for Business, Greg Clark, setting out a long list of legislative proposals.[1] Two motivations are given: “First, the growth of new and rapidly-emerging forms of consumer detriment, caused in part by the increasing digitalisation of the economy, requires more rapid intervention, and probably new types of intervention… Second, there are increasing signs that the public doubt whether markets work for their benefit.” I agree with the spirit of these points and that they require action. However, I disagree with some of the CMA’s key proposals. Lord Tyrie appears particularly frustrated with the lengthy appeals system which limits his ability to act firmly and swiftly. Unfortunately, the overall package of proposals would reverse hard-won progress in competition policy over the last 20 years and lead to a paternalistic, arbitrary and unrestrained Consumer Interest Authority. In this blog, I briefly explain some of my concerns. I then set out two alternative proposals that would more directly and appropriately address public concerns over unfair pricing and result in better decisions without prolonged appeals. Read the rest of this entry »

Does the Prime Minister’s Unexpected Discussion of Competition Policy Signal a Softening of Brexit?

March 4, 2018

(by Andreas Stephan) On Friday 2 March 2018, in a much-anticipated speech meant to give clarity to the UK Government’s Brexit objectives,[1] the Prime Minister suggested that: (a) UK State Aid and Competition rules could remain aligned with those of the EU, and (b) UK courts could continue to have regard to judgments of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Nevertheless, her speech also made it abundantly clear that the ECJ could not continue to have jurisdiction over the UK. While, on the face of it, this speech appears to reiterate Theresa May’s commitment to a ‘hard Brexit’, these significant concessions may signal a weakening of that resolve, as the Government acknowledges for the first time that – if the UK is to maintain a close trading relationship with the EU – the legal realities of Brexit will be complicated.   Read the rest of this entry »

The deterrent effect of competition authorities’ work

September 15, 2017

(by Mike Walker^) In his post last month, Steve Davies bemoaned the lack of evidence on the magnitude of harm deterred by the activities of the Competition Agencies. He presented some estimates from research in CCP on cartel deterrence, concluding most strikingly: “On the most conservative of our estimates, more than half of all potential cartel harm never occurs, because it is deterred. This is very much a lower bound, and the proportion could be as high as 90%.” Read the rest of this entry »