Antitrust angst for the UK – POLITICO

Companies that may be the subject of large antitrust investigations, like Google, will pose a challenge for U.K. regulators after Brexit | Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Brexit Files Insight

The EU used to deal with big competition cases on Britain’s behalf. That’ll change after Brexit.

In recent months the U.K.’s competition agency has opened probes into, among other things, an alleged cartel between decorating companies and a merger between online takeaway firms.

Important cases no doubt, with potentially millions of pounds at stake and extra protection for consumers. But these investigations are small beer compared with what the agency will have to take on once the U.K. leaves the European Union.

Currently, the mega antitrust cases — grappling with global behemoths like Google and GE — are handled on Britain’s behalf by the European Commission. After Brexit, the job of policing these and global mergers worth tens of billions of pounds will fall to the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Will it be up to the job?

Step up Andrea Coscelli, an Italian economist who was this week appointed CEO of the CMA. Coscelli has a tough job ahead of him and the costs of separation will be palpable. Under a hard Brexit, instead of pooling their fire-power, British and EU investigators will conduct parallel inquiries, meaning extra costs for taxpayers and extra red tape for business.

The agency will certainly need more cash. Coscelli predicts investigations into as many as 50 extra mergers per year — a 50 percent rise.

And the Commission at present handles the more resource-intensive ones. Its nine-month review of Dow and DuPont’s $130 billion tie-up analyzed data on thousands of…

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