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05 December 2018

Financial Times: UK competition watchdog warns of hit from no-deal Brexit

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In a draft annual plan for 2019-20, the Competition and Markets Authority said it expected to take “a bigger role on the world stage” post-Brexit as it assumes greater responsibility for competition enforcement, state-aid rules and scrutiny of mergers and acquisitions.

“Responsibility for many cases affecting UK markets, previously considered exclusively by supranational institutions in Brussels and Luxembourg, will be acquired by British authorities and courts,” it said in the draft, the foreword to which was co-signed by Andrew Tyrie, CMA chair, and Andrea Coscelli, its chief executive.

However, although the CMA has been recruiting hundreds of extra staff and had its budget boosted in preparation for the UK’s departure from the EU, “an earlier transfer of responsibilities will not come without cost”. In particular, the watchdog added, its statutory obligation to investigate all relevant mergersand state-aid cases would significantly impede its ability to carry out other tasks.

“In this scenario [of a March exit], our discretion to carry out other work, such as market studies and further enforcement, will . . . narrow considerably.” 

This would be likely to adversely affect what the CMA sees as its other core functions: protecting vulnerable consumers from illegal or unfair trading practices, and improving trust in markets for everyday goods and services, particularly with its consumer protection work.

It is also prioritising better competition in online markets, such as online comparison and booking sites, and boosting the UK’s lacklustre growth and productivity by ensuring markets function effectively. [...]

Full article on Financial Times (subscription required)

Competition and Markets Authority's Annual Plan consultation 2019/20

© Financial Times

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