• Biggest shake-up of UK’s investment screening regime in 20 years confirmed today as National Security and Investment Bill receives Royal Assent
  • new Act will modernise government’s powers to investigate and intervene in potentially hostile foreign direct investment, while advancing the UK’s world-leading reputation as an attractive place to invest
  • Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng: “The UK is open for business, but if you seek to threaten the safety of the British people we will move to protect our interests.”

A landmark Bill to strengthen the government’s ability to investigate and intervene in mergers, acquisitions and other deals that could threaten UK national security has been granted Royal Assent today (Thursday 29 April 2021).

The National Security and Investment Act protects the public from potential risks, and bolsters the UK’s status as an attractive place to invest by providing more efficient clearance processes for relevant acquisitions and more certainty and transparency for investors and businesses. It is a proportionate response to modern developments in international investment.

It will also ensure foreign direct investment projects can continue to boost jobs and stimulate the economy in every corner of the UK, as the vast majority of deals will be able to proceed without delay.

Ahead of the Act’s commencement, the government will work closely with investors and businesses, including through a cross-sector Expert Panel, to ensure they understand what is new.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

Nothing is more important than protecting our national security and this historic Act will ensure we are better equipped to protect our citizens from the small number of foreign investors that seek to do us harm.

The UK faces continued and broad-ranging hostile activity from those who seek to compromise our national security and that of our allies. Such behaviour left unchecked can leave Britain vulnerable to disruption, unfair leverage, and espionage. It is crucial that the government has the tools at our disposal to combat these threats coming from ever more determined overseas actors.

This landmark law not only significantly upgrades our decades-old investment screening powers, but gives investors additional certainty and clarity as we enshrine our status as a global champion of free trade and investment.

We’re sending a crystal clear message to overseas investors: the UK is open for business, but if you seek to threaten the safety of the British people we will move to protect our interests.

The new National Security and Investment Act will update the UK’s current powers in this area – which are almost 20 years old and do not reflect the threats we face today – and bring them in line with those of our closest allies.

In addition to protecting the UK’s national security, the new measures are also designed to make the investment screening process simpler and quicker for investors and businesses – giving them the certainty they need to do business here.

The UK is consistently placed as one of the leading destinations for foreign investment in Europe and around the world, thanks to the strength of its workforce, innovation and lack of red tape and this government is clear that this Act will only strengthen our status as an investment hub.

This Act means that:

  • the government will be able to scrutinise, impose conditions on or, as a last resort, block a deal wherever there is an unacceptable risk to Britain’s national security
  • investors and businesses will have to notify a dedicated government unit – the Investment Security Unit – through a digital portal about certain types of transactions in designated sensitive sectors, such as artificial intelligence
  • the UK’s screening powers will also be extended to include assets like intellectual property as well as companies
  • the vast majority of transactions will be able to proceed unhindered and investments will be screened much faster than the current regime
  • transactions are expected to be assessed within 30 working days and often more quickly, with timelines set out in law for the very first time
  • investors can also notify any transaction voluntarily if they believe it has implications for national security
  • to ensure that no dangerous deal can slip through the net unchecked, in addition to mandatory notification for certain sectors, the Secretary of State will also have the power to ‘call in’ acquisitions in the wider economy which were not notified to government but may raise national security concerns

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said:

As a nation that built itself on trade, enterprise and innovation, the UK remains one of the world’s most open, attractive and welcoming destinations for foreign investment.

However, we will not compromise our national security and this Act is designed to make the investment screening process slicker, simpler and quicker for investors and businesses – giving them the certainty they need to invest and do business here.

Business Minister Paul Scully said:

Our powers in this area were last updated nearly 20 years ago, and they just do not reflect the modern threats we now face. Change was clearly overdue, and I’m delighted that we have achieved it today.

This historic Act will gild our status as an investment hub by modernising the screening regime so that it is as simple and quick as possible for the vast majority of investors and businesses.

The UK is very much open for business, and ahead of commencement we will be working hand in glove with investors and businesses to help them understand what is new so that their deals can proceed without any delay.

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 regime is expected to commence towards the end of this year. Ahead of commencement, the government will work closely with investors and businesses to help them understand what has changed. Special attention will be focused on those in sectors affected by mandatory notification, such as quantum technologies and space and satellite technologies.

Earlier this week, Minister for Investment Gerry Grimstone announced the creation of an Investment Council to act as an advisory body to the UK government on foreign investment, to improve and enhance the UK’s business environment for foreign investors. 

Made up of private sector senior leaders from around the globe in a variety of industries – from technology and energy to infrastructure and financial services – the Council will cement the investor lens in the government’s inward investment strategy.

The Council will operate alongside the recently formed Office for Investment, a new unit staffed by highly experienced individuals tasked to land high value investment opportunities in infrastructure, clean technologies and research and development. 

Notes to editors

  • The National Security and Investment Bill was introduced to Parliament on 11 November 2020
  • the Investment Security Unit will sit within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and provide a single point of contact for businesses wishing to understand the Act and notify the government about transactions
  • the unit will review transactions and coordinate cross-government activity to identify, assess and respond to national security risks arising from foreign direct investment – providing certainty for businesses that they will not be targeted and exploited by potentially hostile actors
  • under the Act the government must be notified if a person’s stake or voting rights in a sensitive acquisition surpasses 25%

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National security bolstered as Bill to protect against malicious investment granted Royal Assent

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