Following its exit from the European Union, a key aspect of the United Kingdom's trade policy has been to conclude free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries and trading blocs. To that end, the United Kingdom has been negotiating 'roll over' FTAs to replace the European Union ones. While FTAs offer significant benefits, they also raise new challenges for businesses which are not accustomed to navigating the complex rules of origin set out in these agreements.
The government has published its response to the consultation on the sectors that will be subject to a mandatory notification regime under the National Security and Investment Bill. The bill proposes to create a domestic investment screening regime in the United Kingdom. This article sets out an important reminder of what businesses need to be considering now in the context of this new screening regime, particularly in light of its retrospective nature.
EU state aid law ceased to apply to the United Kingdom on the expiry of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020 – save for limited exceptions as set out in the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement 2018. In its place, the UK government proposes to establish a domestic subsidy control regime, on which it has launched a public consultation. This article explores the current state of play and what will happen next.
In September 2020 the government launched the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Foreign Policy and Development to review all aspects of international and national security policy, such as ideology, defence, diplomacy, reputation, finance, trade policy, military power and national resilience. This article provides an overview of the developments which have occurred since the review was announced and the expected findings.
With the Department of International Trade set to replace the free trade agreements (FTAs) that the United Kingdom has enjoyed as part of its EU membership, this article considers the last 'hurrah' available under these agreements: the claim back of overpaid duties. Businesses should also consider their altered exposure to customs duties where the United Kingdom has not negotiated 'rollover' FTAs, or they have expired, and in light of new UK FTAs.
In the context of a claim brought by Strident Publishing Limited against Creative Scotland, the Competition Appeal Tribunal has reiterated that UK and EU competition law applies to a public body only where it is acting as an 'undertaking'. The judgment provides helpful guidance for the purposes of assessing whether a public body is acting as an undertaking, such that UK or EU competition law would apply to its activities.
The government recently published the National Security & Investment Bill. In a marked contrast to its 'Global Britain' aspirations in a post-Brexit world, the bill will create a mandatory screening regime for investment in certain core areas of the UK economy in which national security risks are considered more likely to arise. This article considers the key implications of the proposed new regime for investment in the United Kingdom.
In April 2020 the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) dismissed a challenge by Ecolab, Inc of the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA's) decision in its final report on Ecolab's completed acquisition of The Holchem Group Limited, including in relation to the CMA's required divestiture remedy. The CAT's judgment confirms the CMA's ability to reject proposed remedies where it does not have a high degree of confidence that they will effectively address identified competitive concerns.
In June 2020 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) made a number of announcements regarding certain investigations into resale price maintenance (RPM) within the UK musical instruments sector. However, these announcements have wider consequences in the context of the CMA's enforcement activities more generally in relation to RPM.
The government has published details of the National Security and Investment Bill, which will introduce a foreign direct investment screening regime in the United Kingdom. This follows on from recent revisions to the UK merger control regime, which introduced a new public interest criterion (in relation to public health emergencies) and lowered the jurisdictional thresholds applicable to certain activities in the United Kingdom (relating to AI, cryptographic authentication technology and advanced materials).
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently publicised the disqualification of three individuals from acting as directors as a consequence of their company's involvement in an infringement of UK competition law. In view of the CMA's commitment to enforcement actions and to ensuring that directors are held personally responsible for competition law compliance, individuals and organisations should, among other things, proactively consider the extent of any potential exposure that they may face.
The acquisition of a minority shareholding (which satisfies the jurisdictional criteria under the UK merger control regime) without obtaining clearance presents a range of legal and commercial risks for parties, including that the Competition and Markets Authority could ultimately order the acquisition to be undone. This article highlights some ways for parties to identify and understand the extent of the risks of an acquisition.
The Competition and Markets Authority can open an investigation and impose initial enforcement orders where it has reasonable grounds to suspect that two or more enterprises have ceased to be distinct. This includes circumstances in which an acquirer purchases only a minority shareholding in the target because, under the UK merger control regime, two or more enterprises cease to be distinct where they are brought under common ownership or common control.
Where the Competition Market Authority (CMA) opens an investigation into a completed transaction, it will generally impose an initial enforcement order (IEO). In addition, the CMA can impose IEOs in the context of planned transactions, but anticipates that it will do so relatively rarely in practice. In the context of a completed transaction, an IEO aims to ensure that the acquired business continues to compete with the acquiring business and is maintained as a going concern during the course of the CMA's investigation.
Under the UK merger control regime, while parties can notify transactions and obtain clearance from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) before completion, there is no legal requirement to do so. However, if parties do not obtain clearance before completion, the CMA can still investigate. Therefore, a completed transaction is potentially at risk of investigation during the four-month statutory period.