Brexit: implications for competition enforcement in the UK? An economic review

The impact of Brexit on legal services as a whole is uncertain, but consensus is emerging that competition law could be one of the areas most strongly affected. Oxera estimates that competition makes up around 5% of the UK’s top law firms’ service offering.[1] 

The ability of lawyers based in the UK to advise on competition matters in Europe is likely to be harmed if the UK leaves Europe due to issues over the applicability of legal privilege and the transfer of legal practice licences.

Oxera estimates that a 10% reduction in UK-based competition advisory work would have an impact of £167m on UK gross value added (GVA[2]) per year by 2030.[3]

Some European Commission functions may need to be transferred to, or duplicated by, UK regulators in the event of an exit from the EEA. We estimate that the incremental costs could be up to £4.8m per year to the UK public sector.[4]

In the event of Brexit, uncertainty over jurisdiction, or the legal status of European Commission decisions could lead to competition litigation cases diverting to other countries. For example, a large cartel case such as that involving carbon brushes, which are used to conduct electricity, may not happen in if the UK were to vote to leave Europe.

Contact: Joseph Bell

Notes


[1] Based on a proportion of legal experts in Who’s Who Legal. See http://whoswholegal.com/search/, accessed 5 May 2016.

[2] An economic measure of the contribution of a sector to total UK output.

[3] GVA estimate based on Oxera analysis of revenues of Top 50 UK law firms.

[4] Estimated cost of additional staff based on Oxera analysis of staff requirement for equivalent activities at European Commission DG Competition, derived from http://ec.europa.eu/atwork/synthesis/aar/doc/comp_aar_2014_annexes.pdf, accessed 5 May 2016.