Brexit Bowl: Competing Public Interests? Politics and Competition Enforcement

Brexit split flags comprWhat does Brexit mean for competition policy in the EU and UK? The issue has already formed part of the post-Brexit policy debate in the United Kingdom. This snapshot from FTI Consulting’s Senior Advisor, Sir Philip Lowe, a former Director General of the European Commission’s Competition department, looks at the issue of ‘public interest’ in competition policy.

In her last campaign speech before becoming UK Prime Minister, Theresa May raised the prospect of a more interventionist government when it came to take-overs. Drawing on the failed Pfizer takeover of Britain’s AstraZeneca, she intimated that her own government would have stepped in to block the proposed purchase. Competition watchers did not have to wait long for this policy to be put to the test with the announcement over the past few days of Softbank’s purchase of the UK’s Arm Holdings for a record £24.3bn; the Prime Minister in the end welcomed the deal (but also pointed to Softbank’s commitment to keep the company in the UK and to increase employment in the country).

But this isn’t an issue playing out only in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit-bound Britain; the debate about the role of Governments and politics within competition policy is alive across the European Union and of course in the United States. In Germany, the Chinese bid for Bavarian robotics maker Kuka has hit the headlines. And in the US, the Committee on Foreign Investment has recently blocked the acquisition by a Chinese company of a stake in a US tech firm.

Faced with misunderstood globalisation with serious economic and humanitarian implications, Sir Philip points to a temptation to revert to isolation and protectionism. He looks at the role of EU competition authorities, the ‘politicisation’ of competition policy and, crucially, what this means for companies facing competition challenges.
Sir Philip Lowe is a Senior Advisor in the Strategic Communications team at FTI Consulting.

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