From 1 January 2021, the EU competition rules continue to apply to agreements or conduct of UK companies that have an effect within the EU.
However, EU competition law will no longer be enforced in the UK. Instead, most EU competition law has been retained in UK competition law. From 2021, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK took over from the European Commission (EC) in enforcing competition law.
Since 2021, EU authorities have lost the power to carry out on-site investigations (also known as ‘dawn raids’) in the UK. Instead, their powers of investigation are limited to making written requests for information from UK-based companies. The CMA has replaced them as the central enforcer of competition law in the UK, investigating anti-competitive agreements and any potential abuse of a dominant position.
The majority of EU competition law will be transferred into UK law. In particular, the EU block exemption will be retained in UK law beyond Brexit, meaning distribution agreements can continue to benefit from the vertical agreement block exemption.
Where a formal investigation by EC authorities was initiated before the end of the transition period, the EU has the power to continue that ongoing investigation into 2021.
Also, commercial practices conducted by companies based outside the EU will continue to be subject to potential investigation by EC competition authorities, where there is an actual or potential effect on EU trade.
For more information on the impact of Brexit on competition law in the UK, please see the government website.