October 8, 2019

“Boris Johnson’s Flying Circus”: Competition Law Issues in a No-Deal Brexit

Last weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the debut of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”  As anyone who reads my blogs regularly knows, I’m a big fan of the Pythons, so I followed the celebrations with great interest.  I was particularly intrigued by the efforts described in this Reuters article to set the “Guiness World Record for the Largest Gathering of People Dressed Like Gumbys.”

For the uninitiated, “Gumbys” were recurring characters on the show who wore sweater vests, knotted handkerchiefs on their heads, rolled up trousers and Wellington boots, and, as the article put it, were noted for “their ape-like posture, habit of speaking loudly and slowly, and the catchphrase ‘my brain hurts’.”

Anyway, speaking of Her Majesty’s Government, the UK appears to be well on its way to careening out of the EU at the end of this month. If a no-deal Brexit actually does come to pass, there are going to be a lot of issues created under UK & EU competition laws.  This Cleary Gottlieb memo provides a brief overview of the impact of a no-deal Brexit on merger control, antitrust investigations, private damage actions and other competition law-related matters. Here are the highlights:

A no-deal Brexit would have significant and immediate effects on UK competition law enforcement:

– Parallel investigation of mergers, cartels, and dominance cases by the UK Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) and European Commission (“EC”);

– Possible delay to transactions notified to the EC but not cleared by Brexit day;

– A significant increase in the CMA’s caseload, stretching its resources;

– New challenges for claimants bringing EU follow-on damages cases in the UK courts

In other words, while people may be making a big deal about the potentially grave consequences of a no-deal Brexit, when it comes to competition law, John Cleese’s Black Knight would likely shrug it all off as  “just a flesh wound. . .”

John Jenkins