As a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the two parties negotiated two agreements: a Withdrawal Agreement which would in part determine their post-Brexit relationship, and a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) which would determine the conditions under which trade in most goods would be conducted. In negotiating these agreements, the UK focused on three totemic issues: sovereignty, fisheries, and competition and state aid policy. The latter took significance, as—it was argued—by taking control of its competition and subsidy policy, the UK could pursue an industrial policy that would ensure its success in the post-Brexit global economy.
This article considers the TCA’s provisions on competition and state aid. It finds, contrary to the desires of those who promoted Brexit on this ground that as a result of the TCA’s provisions, little can change in terms of policy space in the UK’s competition or industrial subsidy regimes. The substantive provisions contained in the TCA and the EU’s regime are in essence identical. The procedural aspects of the TCA’s subsidy provisions may grant the UK some flexibility (or “freedom”). But, we conclude this comes at a high price, given the economic effect to Brexit for the UK.