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Brexit: are changes afoot for UK Public Procurement?

Current situation

In 2015 the UK Government of the day wrote the EU’s Public Contract Regulations into law, covering the procurement of goods and services over a defined threshold value.

At their core, the Regulations are intended to ensure a level playing field for bidders tendering for contracts across the EU member states. They force the procuring Authority to choose from one of only six possible process routes to market. Each route has the same emphasis; openness, transparency and the fair and equal treatment of bidders.     

Change is on the way…or is it?

Has the adoption of EU’s Public Contract Regulations been successful? The British PM doesn’t think so. Recent rhetoric from Boris Johnson indicates change post-Brexit is on the way; he is quoted as saying he would “fundamentally change” public procurement rules to “back British business” – Financial Times, November 29th 2019.

 In its October 2019 “No-Deal Readiness Report”, the UK Government said that Brexit provides opportunities for public procurement:

“Leaving the EU presents an opportunity to design a radically new regulatory framework for public procurement which better meets UK needs, drives improved commercial outcomes, delivers greater simplification and flexibility, reduces burdens on the public sector and business, and is more transparent. “

So, what next?

We don’t know yet. The UK has taken steps to maintain membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) outside of the EU’s bloc membership; this points to the adoption of their Government Procurement Agreement (GPA): https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/gproc_e/gp_gpa_e.htm .

Will this give the PM enough elbow room to “back British business” vying for Government contracts without harming competition and export markets? This remains to be seen.

The assumption is that nothing will change until after the Brexit transition period ends in December 2020 – by this time much negotiation and agreement between the relevant bodies will have taken place, or maybe not…  

Opinion

Whether adopting the WTO GPA is the Government’s plan or fallback position, as with all large change initiatives there are pros and cons and the law of unintended consequences.

Whatever the changes, will the Government give procuring Authorities room to learn quickly and adjust course as they go, or are we destined for a new procurement process with 5-year reviews followed by a damning report?  

Commerce Decisions will be following developments closely and will keep you posted. But whatever happens, our mission won’t change: to help people around the world benefit from the right procurement decisions being made on important projects.

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