New laws to block foreign takeovers of British firms come into effect

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng

The government has greater powers to block foreign takeovers of British firms considered important to the UK’s national security after a new law commenced this week.

The National Security and Investment Act is described as “the biggest shake-up of the UK’s national security regime for 20 years.”

The government will now be able to scrutinise and intervene in certain acquisitions made by anyone, including businesses and investors, that could harm the UK’s national security.

The government will also be able to impose certain conditions on an acquisition or, if necessary, unwind or block it – although it is expected this will happen rarely and the vast majority of deals will require no intervention and be able to proceed without delay.

The NSI Act will give investors additional certainty and clarity and cement the UK’s world-leading reputation as a global champion of free trade and investment as well as an attractive place to invest, with more transparency and more simple, efficient clearance processes for relevant acquisitions.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng (pictured) said: “The UK is world-renowned as an attractive place to invest but we have always been clear that we will not hesitate to step in where necessary to protect our national security.

“The new investment screening process in place from today is simple and quick, giving investors and firms the certainty they need to do business, and giving everyone in the UK the peace of mind that their security remains our number one priority.”

The government says the vast majority of acquisitions will require no intervention and will be able to proceed quickly and with certainty in the knowledge that the government will not revisit a transaction once cleared unless false or misleading information was provided.

The new regime is even more transparent about the types of deals the government could examine, and requires businesses and investors to notify the government of certain acquisitions across 17 sensitive areas of the economy, including Artificial Intelligence and Civil Nuclear.

The government has published comprehensive guidance to help businesses and investors to understand their obligations under the new rules, including how to assess whether the government must be notified of an acquisition, and what to expect when going through the NSI notification and assessment process.