SCF Event – Unfair competition from the public sector in commercial markets: crowding out and state aid after Brexit

On Thursday 7 September 2017, the Scottish Competition Forum welcomed attendees to a discussion on the regulation of intervention by the public sector in commercial markets.

Governmental bodies of all political stripes, and at all levels, intervene in various markets from time to time, either through funding, procurement or active involvement. Often these interventions, and their displacement of or effect on other economic activities, are thought through and deliberate – investing in certain geographic areas or technologies for example.

Other times they are incidental: the state funds community activities that crowd out small businesses; it may subsidise public activities (such as gyms and libraries) for social purposes which compete with private enterprises; and municipal businesses, so-called “ALEOs” (Arm’s Length External Organisations), fall under local authority control but can qualify for charitable status, can be favoured by public procurement processes, and can directly compete for private customers for up to 20% of their revenue.

In this seminar we considered the regulation of state activity in commercial markets in Scotland and whether Scotland (or the UK as a whole) would benefit from laws, such as those in place in some other countries, to provide transparency and remedies. EU state aid rules are absent below relevant thresholds and may disappear post-Brexit. What will replace them?

Our final line-up of speakers was:

  • Chair: Michael Dean, Head of EU, Competition and Regulatory and Partner at Maclay Murray & Spens LLP
  • Dr Albert Sanchez Graells, Reader in Economic Law at the University of Bristol Law School and a specialist in competition law and public procurement
  • Anna Palmerus, a leading Swedish competition lawyer with experience of Swedish laws regulating when the state is unfairly competing with private business
  • Peter Sellar, an advocate specialising in all aspects of EU law, who has appeared before Scottish and EU courts and was formerly Head of Competition and Regulatory law for the Insurance Division of Lloyds Banking Group.
  • Stuart Clarke, Director of Legal Services at Scottish Enterprise.
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