The Office for the Internal Market (OIM) launched yesterday (21 September). The OIM, part of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), aims to support the smooth-running of trade between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It will provide “independent, technical, non-binding expert advice” to the UK’s governments to support the effective operation of the UK internal market.
The system is set out in the UK Internal Market Act 2020, which came into force on 31 December 202. It aims to “protect businesses, jobs and livelihoods” by ensuring there are no “harmful new barriers to trade” across the UK.
The OIM will advise on regulations or regulatory proposals that may impact the internal market and will monitor and report on the health of the internal market to the Scottish government, the Welsh government, the Northern Ireland Executive and UK government, including trends and developments across sectors and regions.
The OIM has issued guidance aimed at helping the public, businesses and authorities with a role in enforcement to understand the day-to-day functioning of the UK’s internal market system.
The OIM has asked for businesses to report details of any trade issues or concerns about trading between UK nations. It has created a new digital reporting service through which businesses may share their experiences of how the internal market is working – for example, if producers from one part of the UK are paying more to meet the product standards in another part of the UK to be allowed to sell there.
The first State of the UK Internal Market report is set to be published in Spring 2022 and will draw on information reported by businesses.
The UK’s governments may also seek advice or reports on the impact rules and requirements are having, or may have, on the internal market. The OIM will monitor changes to the operation of the internal market over time.
Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive at the CMA, said: “The Office for the Internal Market will shine a light on how effectively companies are able to sell their products and services to people across the four nations, post-Brexit. Strong competition relies on effective trading, and customers rely on competition to get the best choice of products and services.
“The OIM will listen to concerns and report to all Governments on the barriers faced by businesses. Its reporting and advice rely on hearing from those who are directly affected, which is why we need people to tell the OIM about any relevant trading issues that they encounter”.
Regulations have been introduced to parliament to enable the OIM to carry out its duties and support the operation of the UK Internal Market Act 2020.
The OIM may issue ‘information notices’ and levy financial penalties if organisations fail to comply with requirements. However, the regulations have introduced limits on these financial penalties, following a public consultation earlier this year.