Business as usual for procurement law after Brexit

posted by Francis Churchill
19 September 2016

Public procurement will be “business as usual” even if the Brexit negotiations end with “something quite different to what people anticipate”,  a procurement lawyer has said. 

“The law is the law, and it will remain procurement law in the form of the Public Contract Regulations 2015 until they are repealed,” said Stuart Cairns, head of procurement law at Pinsent Masons.

“And if we exit [the European Union] in a couple of years' time, I can’t imagine the first priority for the government will be to repeal, review and update procurement legislation,” he added.

Cairns, who is speaking at the CIPS Annual Conference 2016, stressed it was business as usual. However, buyers who wanted to say ahead of the Brexit curve should familiarise themselves with other regulatory environments including the World Trade Organisation agreements, he advised.

“It seems highly likely that whatever agreement is reached, we will have a regime for ensuring value for money is delivered for the public purse... The names of certain things might change but ultimately the demand for consistency and transparency and non-discrimination will probably remain in some guise,” he said.

Cairns also advised public buyers to be vigilant when trying to incorporate social values into their procurement. “You need to do it very carefully because you could breach procurement law very easily,” he said.

“These things are cyclical… the issue around local employment and social values was really popular 10 years ago and then when we had a bit of an economic downturn it sort of fell down the government’s agenda,” he added. “It’s definitely rising back up the government’s agenda.”

But “its not consistent with procurement law to simply say ‘I’m buying local’ or ‘I’m employing local’,” he said.

Cairns said achieving social value fairly was about how you set up your procurement and how you encourage bidders. “That’s a two-day conference basically,” he said.

Speaking generally he advised buyers to be mindful of transparency and be clear about what they are looking for when tendering. “They should make sure that they, to the greatest extent possible, treat everyone equally. So the opportunity should be open to everyone capable of delivering it,” he said. 

Stuart Cairns will be one of the speakers at this year’s CIPS Annual Conference 2016. Find out more and book your tickets here.

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