EU crossroads: Brussels turns to Brexit

Brussels turns to Brexit

Brussels at the crossroads of should and must…

Uncertainty has reigned since the electorate of the UK voted in favour of the country leaving the EU; a week today, speakers at GCR’s flagship annual conference will start to untangle what this means for competition law and policy.

Keynote speaker Richard Whish QC, an emeritus professor at King’s College London and a leading European competition law academic, will explore the effect of the referendum result on competition policy in the EU as he reviews the leading developments of the last 12 months

Brexit will also be a topic of discussion during panels on due process at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition and follow-on damage claims.

Aside from Brexit, GCR Live’s 8th annual Brussels conference looks sure to be a highlight of the competition law calendar. Chaired by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner John Davies and RBB Economics partner Bojana Ignjatovic, and bringing together some of the world’s most respected competition law experts, the event will cover the biggest issues in the field.

Giulio Federico of DG Comp’s chief economist’s team will kick off proceedings in the afternoon of 11 July with a keynote speech; a panel on mergers will follow straight afterwards, as speakers consider issues such as whether dealmakers are over-reaching, and if 4-to-3 is a new line in the sand for merger reviews.

Conference chair Ignjatovic will moderate that session, alongside Federico, Sven Völcker at Latham & Watkins, Slaughter and May partner William Turtle, and Melanie Aitken, a partner at Bennett Jones in Washington, DC and a former head of Canada’s Competition Bureau.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton counsel Paul Gilbert will guide the next panel, which will focus on DG Comp’s processes and procedures. As the UK’s exit from the EU has led to record numbers of English lawyers applying to the Irish bar, the panel will examine the full effect of Brexit on the enforcer’s process – as well as broader issues of its transparency and the finer points of defendants’ access to file.

Joining Gilbert will be John Davies, Shearman & Sterling partner Stephen Mavroghenis, Kristina Nordlander at Sidley Austin, and Mark Powell at White & Case.

That session marks the conclusion of the first day’s panels – but not of the event, which will move on to a drinks reception hosted by Hogan Lovells and a conference dinner sponsored by Shearman & Sterling.

The next day will feature Richard Whish QC’s keynote. As one of the world’s leading competition law academics, his lively, insightful, and thought-provoking summaries serve both as a primer and an in-depth look at the most important topics in competition law; Brexit, this year, will be one of them.

Whish will go on to moderate the next panel, which will tackle the ever-controversial interface between intellectual property and antitrust, focusing on the European position in the wake of the Samsung and Motorola cases – as well as their effect on other, related areas like DG Comp’s collapsed credit default swaps investigation.

Covington & Burling partner Miranda Cole, Shearman & Sterling partner Trevor Soames, and Robert O’Donoghue at Brick Court Chambers in London will complete the roster.

After lunch, Jonas Koponen at Linklaters in Brussels will steer a panel examining DG Comp’s non-cartel enforcement. With e-commerce, price signalling and abuse of dominance at the top of the enforcer’s agenda, delegates can expect a lively discussion from a session entitled ‘Non-cartel antitrust enforcement: The calm before the storm?’

Alongside Koponen, Kirsten Edwards Warren at Compass Lexecon, Matthew Levitt at Hogan Lovells, UK Competition and Markets Authority inquiry chair Philip Marsden and David Parker at Frontier Economics will join the discussion.

Follow-on damages claims, and the effect that Brexit could have on them, will come next. The topic will be tackled by practitioners hailing from Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Düsseldorf, with Benoît Durand at RBB Economics, Elizabeth Morony at Clifford Chance, Thomas Paul at Hengeler Mueller and Monckton Chambers barrister Kassie Smith participating in the session.

State aid and tax rulings – a topic which has become one of the greatest concerns for multinationals operating in Europe – will close the conference.

Freshfields partner Andreas von Bonin will moderate the panel, with participants Jackie Holland at Slaughter and May, Gert-Jan Koopman, who is DG Comp’s head of state aid enforcement, comparative tax law professor Raymond Luja, and George Peretz QC at Monckton Chambers shining a light on a complex, novel form of enforcement with huge consequences for companies.

The author: Michel DEURINCK

Michel Deurinck, born in Brussels in 1950, started his career in the Belgian civil service, dedicating over 30 years to public service. Upon retirement, he pursued his passion for journalism. Transitioning into this new field, he quickly gained recognition for his insightful reporting on politics and culture. Deurinck's balanced and thoughtful approach to journalism has made him a respected figure in Belgian media.

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