Somewhat surprisingly it looks like the European Union is going to do the right thing and stay out of a merger between two UK companies.
Normally the European Commission, or one of the countless other state appendages that sprout from the EU blob, would be all over something like the proposed merger between O2 UK and Virgin Media UK. But as you may have heard, the UK will no longer be part of the EU from the start of next year, so it will no longer be the concern of the EU what our companies get up to.
That’s the theory, anyway, but in practice the EU wants to attach all sorts of conditions to the privilege of letting us do business with its member states and has shown itself very reluctant to return our sovereignty. So it comes as a pleasant surprise to see common sense momentarily superseding all the political posturing.
Reuters reports that the UK Competition and Markets Authority will be handed the baton on this matter after all, citing someone they chatted to who reckons they know a thing or two. The CMA asked for this to happen a month or so ago, so that’s a fairly rapid turnaround by EU standards. There hasn’t been an official confirmation yet, however, and Reuters source could be wrong.
Assuming they’re not, this is clearly the correct course of action. Even if the EU hadn’t made this concession, presumably it would have just been a matter of waiting until the new year, at which point its jurisdiction expires anyway. Since VM is a fixed-line player and O2 is mobile, there should be little grounds for objection to this merger, especially in a country that allowed BT to buy EE. Hopefully the CMA will turn this around quickly so they can get on with enjoying synergies and that sort of thing.