back to article UK's competition watchdog preps to shoulder post-Brexit workload from European Commission

The head of the UK's competition regulator said the body planned to "come down like a ton of bricks" on anyone attempting to stifle the country's economic recovery. Jonathan Scott, chair of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), said the nation was now ready to "step up and fulfil the regulatory role previously held by …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Ye trillion $ global monopolies

    Feel the wrath of our mighty sovereignty and tremble

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ye trillion $ global monopolies

      Feel the wrath of our mighty sovereignty and.... oi, stop sniggering!

      Unfortunately we're going to be fairly toothless as we are no longer such a big player ('back of the line' - D Trump), and it's bound to be 'light touch regulation', ie business-as-usual.

      If the best the EU can manage is to get the monopolies to hand over the loose change they just found down the back of their sofas, what chance have we got

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Ye trillion $ global monopolies

      The UK used to be something like 10% of Apple's business and its second biggest market ten years ago. We're now definitely behind China, but obviously Apple are much less a computer company than a phone and digital services company so I've no idea how that's changed.

      The figures were similar with Google at the time, which has changed less.

      Basically, lots of these big companies make much profit here. And would like to continue doing so. Therefore they'll comply with the law if forced to, because they don't want to forgo that profit. In the case of monopolies like Google, that's even more important. They didn't pull out of Australia (a much smaller economy) over paying for news stories, because if they allow large markets to develop without them - they'll get competition. Which is of course what's happened in China, where they were forced out.

  2. Howard Sway Silver badge

    We're going to hit you with a massive fine.....

    "We're leaving".

    "Please stay, we didn't mean it".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We're going to hit you with a massive fine.....

      "We're leaving".

      "Please stay, we didn't mean it".

      No, that's the situation in Ireland. The UK isn't competent enough to have attracted (or retained) any of the big international tech players. (Yes, we have the home grown ARM here, and once upon a time there was Symbian, and we once also had various assembly-line factories, but we're sadly still only a small player in the bigger scheme of things.)

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: We're going to hit you with a massive fine.....

        If you can no longer count all UK sales in Ireland is it as desirable as an HQ for USA?

      2. tip pc Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: We're going to hit you with a massive fine.....

        “ The UK isn't competent enough to have attracted (or retained) any of the big international tech players. ”

        Yes no big tech players left in the uk..

        https://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/uk-motorsport-pole-position-global-automotive-innovation/

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-57640001

        Many other examples of uk excellence but I can’t be bothered to google for you.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We're going to hit you with a massive fine.....

          @tip pc, OK, fair points about motorsport and Nissan battery examples (and, yes indeed, there are probably quite a few others), but, unless I am much mistaken (and I'm happy to admit it if I'm wrong), the UK really doesn't seem to be up there with the well-known household names of the likes of Germany, Japan or Korea, let alone (obviously) the USA in technological fields these days, and it is pretty sad considering that we were one of the starters of the industrial revolution.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The UK isn't competent enough ...

        I doesn't seem to me that - beyond a certain point - that the competence of the target country is particularly relevant; rather it is the "friendliness" of the tax regime that counts.

      4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: We're going to hit you with a massive fine.....

        Google and Microsoft have huge presence in the UK. Google route UK advertising sales via Ireland, though I'm not sure how the tax treatment of that has changed post-Brexit. But they've still got lots of design, research, business, legal, accounting and other stuff based here. Microsoft have a huge campus out near Reading, but I don't know if that's just sales? However they also push a bunch of their sales via Ireland, for tax purposes.

        This makes sense for Ireland, because the relatively small perecentage of money it makes from a small number of huge players using it as a tax-base is larger than the money it loses from taxing its own businesses at a lower rate. That may not be true for the UK - where if we halve our corporation tax, we lose revenue from a much larger economy / larger number of companies - and there's only so much multi-national tax-avoidance cash to go round.

        Not that it even matters if Google have staff here or not. They'll comply with the law if they can make profits here - and bugger off if they can't.

  3. nematoad
    FAIL

    Oh, right.

    "... things should get interesting."

    Yes maybe, but judging by the sums quoted in the article not more expensive for the guilty.

    £60,000 versus €110m? That's loose change for some of those in the CMA's sights.

    It's like squaring up to a 16 inch battleship armed with a peashooter.

    Pipsqueak threats from a sorely diminished country.

    Is that what we were promised when we "Took back control"?

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Oh, right.

      > Is that what we were promised when we "Took back control"?

      You can't vote out the European Commission so you don't exactly have control over laws that are voted in by mindless drones, sorry I mean MEPs.

      We have quite inept government, but we can have it completely replaced at the next elections as they so far have been falling short.

      As in taking back control, in theory, we can have a party that could legislate loan charge treatment for these giant companies using various schemes to avoid paying the right amount of tax. This wouldn't be possible in the EU.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Oh, right.

        And what's more by negotiating our own deals we have the power to tell American, Chinese and Indian companies exactly what they have to do if they want a trade deal

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Oh, right.

          You mean like we just did to Australia?

          Odd that the NFU and food and drink associations aren't too happy about it, then.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Oh, right.

            You mean like we just did to Australia?

            Odd that the NFU and food and drink associations aren't too happy about it, then.

            There's a legitimate argument to be had here. But yours (such as you've bothered to make) isn't it.

            If we do a trade deal that allows another country to import stuff here that undercuts our own industries - that has the downside of losing some industry. But the upside - that we as consumers get cheaper stuff.

            The point about the EU's Common Agricultural Policy is that it's a system of tarrifs and subsidies designed to protect farmers and agriculural workers - at the expsense of European consumers. i.e. it causes food prices to be higher and subsidises less efficient farmers in rural France. Its good points were that food security was an obvious worry post-war - but the bad points are making most people worse off, being disproportionately a cost on the poorest in society and encouraging inefficiency and waste. Plus being awful for the environment - though some of the environmental and waste problems have been at least somewhat addressed.

            So saying that "the farmers aren't happy" isn't some slam-dunk killer argument that this trade deal is shit. It's just that one of the vested interests has managed to get all the media attention. Obviously a big risk in politics - particularly on issues where some people might lose big in order for almost everyone else to win only a little bit.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Oh, right.

              The whole point of the Eu was to prop up French farmers.

              Farmers voting for Brexit to avoid all the forms they have to fill in to get Eu subsidy was a classic Creme Eggs voting for Easter

            2. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: Oh, right.

              If the Australian government freely posts the quotas and tariffs in this deal and Australian farming and industry declares themselves happy with the agreement, and the British government give few details and British farming and declares itself unhappy with the agreement and British industry barely says anything, what does that tell you?

              Food security was an obvious worry post-war. Why should it not be an obvious worry now, looking at the increasingly empty shelves in the UK and the concerns being raised by the supermarket and logistics sectors?

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: Oh, right.

                > what does that tell you?

                That the deal is for cheap Australian food to be imported making Oz farmers happy and UK farmers sad.

                If you also questioned people involved in the major trade going the other way, eg. manufacturers of replicas of the Ashes you would find the millions of British exporters happy and the native Australian manufacturers of Replicas of the Ashes to be despondent

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Oh, right.

          LOL, you REALLY should have used the <sarc> tags on that. It seems at least one person missed that :-)

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Oh, right.

            Poe's law, only in 2021 it's been updated - instead of creationist it's brexiteer.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh, right.

        Just to be clear the European Commission can't make law, they can only propose them. A law requires both the agreement of the Council of Ministers (EU member states representatives) and MEPs. MEPs can vote out the Commission.

        None of this makes the EU the best thing since sliced bread but it's worth knowing how things work.

        1. tip pc Silver badge

          Re: Oh, right.

          They can’t make law but did agree the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement that the EU Parliament didn’t agree to till 28th April 2021

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Oh, right.

            ..and if they hadn't agreed it then the temporary arrangements would have lapsed.

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Oh, right.

          Just to be clear the European Commission can't make law, they can only propose them. A law requires both the agreement of the Council of Ministers (EU member states representatives) and MEPs. MEPs can vote out the Commission.

          The European Commission can make laws on its own. At least in areas where it has competence.

          What you are describing is an EU Directive. This is a piece of legislation at European level that all member states must write their own laws to bring into force. The GDPR is an example of this (as are the Water Regulations). There's a European model and then national leglislation in order to implement that. These are proposed by the Commission, but then agreed by the triumverate of Commission, Council of Ministers and European Parliament.

          However the Commission can also issue Regulations. These have legal force, but are issued by the Commission itself (if they have legal competence in that area). See a brief overview here of the difference.

          As an example, when the Commission wanted to show how they were taking tough action on vaccines on January 30th, they issued a Regulation requiring all vaccine exporters to ask for export permission each time they wanted to send out a batch. That's because the Commission have sole comptence in trade policy and the Single Market - and so weren't required to consult the member states at all. Hence they discussed maybe doing it on the Tuesday - and issued the regulation on the Friday night about about 7 o'clock with it coming into force on the Saturday morning. There wasn't even an equivalent of a cabinet meeting (College of Commissioners) to approve the law - it was just emailed round an hour before publishing, asking if anyone had objections.

          To be fair, the Commission don't usually cowboy things as badly as that. That was the law that directly broke the Northern Ireland protocol by enacting an emergency application of Article 16 to suspend it without consultation or notice. But they have the legal right to issue law with nothing but a release on the Commission's website with zero oversight.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Oh, right.

            I can see that it's true that the Commission can be granted power to enforce a rule but looking at the link you give it says:

            "A "regulation" is a binding legislative act. It must be applied in its entirety across the EU. For example, when the EU wanted to make sure that there are common safeguards on goods imported from outside the EU, the Council adopted a regulation."

            I note the part which says 'the Council adopted a regulation' which seems to suggest the Council of Ministers was involved.

            In terms of the vaccine export restrictions, I agree it appears that was a power given to them by the Council and MEPs... for better or worse....

            As for oversight, well they seem to have been told to stop what they were doing by the member states and I suppose MEPs could have removed them if they hadn't complied.... As you say, in general, they don't seem like a cowboy outfit.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Oh, right.

              That site's not very clear - I only looked it up quickly, because I can never remember which way round regulation and directive are - and it was an official source. The EU set-up is extremely complex. The more you know about it, the more you find out you need to learn. For example, "the council" in that above paragraph is probably the Council of the European Union - often informally called the Council of Ministers. Which is the body that does a bunch of the co-legislation with the Parliament and Commission. A lot of the trilateral committee work on bining bills to the vote in their final form. The Council can also legislate in a few areas, without consulting the Parliament - i.e. issue Regulations. But so can the Commission.

              You also have the European Council. Which is the heads of state or government - so the Prime Ministers and Presidents who give the Commission direction. Which so far as I know can't issue Regulations, but I could be wrong.

              And then to be extra confusing The Council of Europe - which isn't even an EU body - but which runs the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights). The one that everybody tends to confuse with the ECJ (European Court of Justice) which is the EU's top court.

              If I remember rightly, the Commission didn't even need to put the post-Brexit trade agreement (TCA) to the European Parliament. That was only done because they'd promised to. The Commission's legal department gave an opinion last year that they didn't need to, because it was a pure trade agreement and so fell under the Commission's competence on trade policy. The deal had been expected to be a hybrid deal, like the Canadian Free Trade Agreement - which had elements outside trade and so did require approval by the EP plus all other national parliaments (and even a few regional ones like the 2 Belgian ones) - but wasn't in the end.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Oh, right.

      "£60,000 versus €110m? That's loose change for some of those in the CMA's sights."

      That was the point of the quote. He wants stronger powers for the CMA.

      1. nematoad

        Re: Oh, right.

        I agree with you. He did say that the CMA needs stronger powers to punish wrongdoers.

        My point was that the CMA does not have such powers and given the current government is unlikely to be granted them.

        We left the EU and have now got to go around re-inventing the regulatory wheel.

        The best deal on offer at the time was to remain in the EU and it amuses me now to hear the likes of Tim Martin of JD Wetherspoons pleading for special treatment now that the reduction of labour in the hospitality industry caused by Brexit means that he can't get enough staff.

        Hypocrite!

        1. H in The Hague

          Re: Oh, right.

          "... it amuses me now to hear the likes of Tim Martin of JD Wetherspoons pleading for special treatment now that the reduction of labour in the hospitality industry caused by Brexit means that he can't get enough staff."

          The staff shortages could be solved by raising wages in the hospitality sector. After all, one of the arguments in favour of Brexit was that it would reduce the supply of cheap labour from Eastern Europe, leading to an increase in wages for the native workforce. So it is a little surprising that Mr Martin now complains about an outcome of a policy he actively promoted.

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: Oh, right.

            @H in The Hague

            "The staff shortages could be solved by raising wages in the hospitality sector"

            Actually such wage increases have already been happening as the supply of cheap labour isnt so easily available. It does show the remain argument wrong that such open borders didnt suppress wages. Another success of brexit.

        2. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: Oh, right.

          @nematoad

          "it amuses me now to hear the likes of Tim Martin of JD Wetherspoons pleading for special treatment now that the reduction of labour in the hospitality industry caused by Brexit means that he can't get enough staff."

          Was that the selective quotes chosen to say the opposite of his opinion? After them being published he had to publicly correct the paper for misrepresenting him?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is that what we were promised when we "Took back control"?

      I thought we were promised a bus? And I must say, as the bus is nowhere to be seen, that promise has been delivered 100%. A promise's a promise after all.

  4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Watchdog or lapdog?

    Which is it?

    They probably don't know which company to pick on and are in a permablocked state.

  5. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "Whether this activity is a sign that the CMA is ramping up its position to protect consumers ..."

    This is the CMA whose supposedly independent public enquiry into targeted online advert placement clearly presupposed that the public actually wish to be tracked and have promo forced on them.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Whether this activity is a sign that the CMA is ramping up its position to protect consumers – or merely taking on board the extra workload following Brexit – remains to be seen."

    Getting swamped by it all seems more likely.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      @Doctor Syntax

      "Getting swamped by it all seems more likely."

      Same situation as the EU enforcers then. Wernt they complaining about how underfunded their GDPR enforcement was?

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        You can check each country here. The UK had a grand total of four GDPR enforcements while it was part of the EU. One would have thought it would have had something more in France or Germany's ballpark.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          @Dan 55

          "One would have thought it would have had something more in France or Germany's ballpark."

          Why?

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: @Dan 55

            Similar sized developed economies with similar population sizes.

            1. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: @Dan 55

              But that itself doesnt mean a similar approach by either the actors in the economy nor the enforcement body.

              1. Dan 55 Silver badge

                Re: @Dan 55

                Indeed. It seems the UK's enforcement body has moved from "light touch" to "allowing piss taking".

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