SCF Event – Brexit: What next for competition policy? 25 August 2016

At this SCF event we welcomed over 70 attendees to the offices of MMS in Edinburgh’s Quartermile to discuss the implications of Brexit – and what comes next – for competition in Scotland.

Dr Tobias Lock, lecturer in EU Law and co-director of the Europa Institute at the University of Edinburgh, talked the audience through the Article 50 process and the options for the UK’s relationship with the EU post-Brexit. His presentation also touched on what parts of UK law would – and would not – be affected.

Professor Andreas Stephan from the University of East Anglia then gave a presentation on the implications of all of this for competition law specifically. Much will depend on the relationship the UK has with the EU in the future, but there is unlikely to be substantial change to the substantive law on competition issues, both because the principles are embedded and consistency with the EU assists with legal certainty. There may, however, be further uncertainty surrounding the UK government’s new approach to industrial strategy.

Peter Freeman QC, Chairman of the Competition Appeal Tribunal, discussed the implications for private enforcement of competition law – jurisdiction, choice of law and the Brussels and Lugano conventions. The major uncertainty going forward is likely to be the UK’s attractiveness and convenience as a forum for bringing private damages actions.

Michael Dean, partner and head of the EU, competition and regulatory department at Maclay Murray & Spens LLP, rounded off the event with a presentation focused on the public enforcement of competition law. Brexit will undoubtedly complicate matters,not least in relation to legal privilege, though the more immediate concern may be the need to do some “nation building” in the UK, as policy and enforcement bodies scale up to meet the challenges of performing roles that the EU has held for over four decades.

The event, as ever, ended with a spirited and lively discussion and an informal wine reception.