Jonathan Davey and Amy Gatenby
Addleshaw Goddard LLP
We noted in last year’s preface the potentially momentous nature of a UK vote in favour of ‘Brexit’ (the UK’s vote to exit the European Union) though at the time a ‘leave’ vote seemed the less likely outcome. Indeed, the past year has been one of momentous political events in the US and Europe. And, while the UK has voted to leave the EU, elections in France and Germany this year, involving populist contenders, have the potential to force further reform and reshaping of the EU.
Brexit will have significant consequences for the laws of the UK, with 10 per cent of all UK secondary legislation being derived from the EU, and procurement law is no exception: while the status quo on exit will be maintained for a period after that exit takes effect, procurement law reform is already in the sights of the UK’s Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, with both having referred to procurement law as a focus post-Brexit, pointing to a balance between encouraging the UK supply chain while not propping up uncompetitive domestic industries. Given the fact that the UK will seemingly not be signing up to the single market, it remains to be seen what accommodation (if any) the UK will make with the EU on procurement law. However, it must be remembered that, even if the UK were instead to opt to sign up to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), much of what many EU lawyers might consider the basic nuts and bolts of EU procurement law are actually also enshrined in the GPA, examples being the obligations to run a transparent, impartial and non-discriminatory process.
Last year’s preface also contemplated ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), involving 12 nations (including the US) responsible in aggregate for 40 per cent of global economic output, but the US withdrawal from the agreement, announced in January, has left the remaining TPP partners struggling to keep it alive. President Trump has also signalled the end of TTIP, the proposed trade deal between the EU and the US. Elsewhere in the world, changes continue apace. While EU Member States have been adopting new national laws to give effect to the 2014 EU Directives, legislative changes have been made or are pending in many other countries. Among these, Mexico is introducing major reforms, particularly on combating corruption, and Australia is making changes in anticipation of joining the GPA. Meanwhile in Brazil, another country rocked by political upheaval, the government has been unable to pursue its procurement objectives in full, while in South Africa public procurement has been used as a policy tool to address economic and socio-economic issues.