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The UK's proposed new national security regime: a sledgehammer to crack a nut

Nicholas Levy, John Messent, Edward Dean and Chloe Hassard

Keywords: foreign investment review; M&A; national security; public interest; merger control

On 11 November 2020, the UK Government published the National Security and Investment Bill (NSI Bill), which, if approved by Parliament, would allow the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Secretary of State) to screen and prohibit ‘potentially hostile’ investments that threatened UK national security.

The proposed system would represent the most significant change in the UK regulatory environment since the Government ceded the power to approve or prohibit mergers on competition grounds to an independent agency in 2002. The envisaged regime would be among the most wide-ranging and onerous in the world, adding a new layer of mandatory review and imposing non-trivial costs on investments in any company with UK activity.

This article describes the UK's existing public interest intervention regime, explains the background to the Government's proposed new regime, including similar initiatives elsewhere in the world, summarizes the principal features of the proposed new UK regime, and considers its potential implications for investments in the UK.

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