Judge Forrester warns UK against politicizing competition law

31 January 2017 9:55am

First published by MLex 22 November 2016. By Matthew Newman and Lewis Crofts.

Ian Forrester, a British judge at the EU’s General Court, has said it would be “unfortunate” if the UK moved to politicize its competition rules following a divorce from the bloc.

“I would voice a little bit of regret if those who are favoring Brexit were to favor a different, more colored enforcement regime in the UK than applies in the EU 27,” Forrester told a conference yesterday.

UK ministers have discussed adapting the country’s antitrust regime to allow them to intervene more swiftly in certain kinds of mergers and industries requiring state support.

“After all the effort of last 25 years to achieve a depoliticization of competition law enforcement . . . it would seem to me unfortunate if the UK were to go its own distinctive path if Brexit were to occur in the context of competition law enforcement,” Forrester said.

His comments come as UK Prime Minister Theresa May is pushing a new industrial strategy. Her plans would see the state directing subsidies toward certain sectors and the government gaining the power to protect certain industries from some foreign takeovers.

The proposals follow Pfizer’s attempt to buy London-based rival AstraZeneca in a 2014 in a deal that whipped up fears that the UK would lose a strategic business.

Forrester cautioned that it’s too early to know how the enforcement of competition rules will change following Brexit.

“The political outcome is still very, very uncertain,” he said. “Things can go any way.”

“There are a number of hypotheses which could come to fruition, and I think it’s too early to say.”

ABA 2019