Following the recent signing of the CETA free trade deal between the EU and Canada, many are asking what the UK has in store in relation to trade and, specifically, public procurement rules, upon withdrawal from the EU.
The public procurement rules which apply in Scotland come from the EU Procurement Directive therefore, once the UK has left the EU, does this mean the end for public procurement law in this country?
The possible scenarios for the UK?s exit from the EU include:
- The Norway model: the UK would become a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), thereby retaining access to the single market. However, this would mean the UK remaining subject to EU regulations, including the procurement rules.
- The Switzerland model: the UK would enter into the European Free Trade Agreement, but would not be a member of the EEA. Our access to the single market would be governed by a series of bilateral agreements individually negotiated. However, these agreements would most likely include obligations similar to the procurement regulations.
- The Canada model: As mentioned above, Canada and the EU have finally signed the CETA free trade agreement. Both parties spent several years negotiating the agreement, which allows Canada preferential access to the single market without the full suite of obligations imposed on Norway and Switzerland. However, the CETA agreement contains a procurement chapter which is similar to the procurement regime as we know it.
- The World Trade Organisation (WTO) model: Members of the WTO have entered into the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) allowing each other limited access to government procurement markets. This model reflects the absolute minimum the UK would be looking for in terms of its future trading relationship with EU members. However, the terms of the GPA include a simplified version of the current procurement rules.
Theresa May has indicated that the UK would seek to negotiate its own bespoke agreement but, as the above models show, it is unlikely that we would retain access to the single market without agreeing to advertise and award our public contracts in accordance with the same rules applicable to other EU member states.
Without a crystal ball, it is impossible to know what impact 'Brexit' will have on the UK's future trading relationship with the EU. However, at present, it is hard to imagine a post-Brexit Britain where the procurement rules do not apply.
For more information or advice on public procurement rules, please get in touch with our team.