CMA not underestimating impact Brexit could have on its ability to police markets

Dr Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement. Image credit: CMA

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is aware of the “important and serious issues” Brexit could throw up, including challenges and practical problems for competition law and policy that it says will need to be addressed.

The CMA, which is responsible for strengthening business competition and preventing anti-competitive activities, recognises a number of challenges that the UK’s departure from the EU could bring and hamper its ability to regulate anti-competitive practices and handle mergers.  

Dr Michael Grenfell, CMA’s executive director for enforcement, said that he has listened to people voice various concerns about the impact Brexit could have on the CMA’s operations, which some fear could have a negative effect on some markets and consumers and particularly elderly and disabled people

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Some of the concerns include the risks to business certainty if there is divergence from EU norms in competition enforcement; a lack of shared information from the European Competition Network on suspected anti-competitive practices; and a lack of funding for the CMA which could inhibit its activities.

Dr Grenfell said: “It is perhaps inevitable that the competition law community should focus on the negative in all this. The practice of competition law in the UK has, historically, been intimately bound up with our membership of the EU.”

But he added that in spite of the many potential problems, there are also “significant opportunities”.

He noted that Brexit will mean the UK will be allowed to tackle all anti-competitive practices that affect home markets, UK consumers and UK businesses, “not just the ones that the European Commission isn’t interested”.

Dr Grenfell continued: “In short, 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.

“We have discussed some of the potential difficulties, but of course there are also opportunities here, for the CMA and for the UK regime.”

He noted that there are “serious difficulties” ahead but the purpose of identifying them and tackling them is to be in a position where the CMA can make the most of the opportunities and help benefit UK consumers, businesses and the economy.

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