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UK Chancellor Calls for CMA to "Understand Wider Responsibilities" Following Microsoft Activision Deal Block

UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has urged the country's regulatory body to recognize the importance of understanding its "wider responsibilities" in promoting economic growth, following its decision to prevent Microsoft's planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

After the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) halted a proposed deal between Microsoft and Activision Blizzard in late April 2023, there has been a significant amount of discussion surrounding the regulator's decision, with British politicians joining the conversation.

One such politician who recently voiced his opinion on the matter is Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As reported by The Telegraph, during his speech at the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference on May 17, Hunt stated that the regulators have to recognize the need to promote growth.

"I think one of the reasons that companies like Microsoft and Google want to invest in the UK is because we have independent regulators that are not controlled by politicians and therefore they can be confident there will be a level playing field," he said.

"I would not want to undermine [the CMA's independence] at all, but I do think it’s important all our regulators understand their wider responsibilities for economic growth."

Despite the Chancellor emphasizing the full independence of the CMA, his statement was widely interpreted by the British media as a criticism directed towards the regulator.

Following the UK's exit from the European Union, there were efforts to position the country as the next Silicon Valley. However, the CMA's decision to block the Microsoft and Activision Blizzard deal prompted some influential figures, including Microsoft President Brad Smith, to openly assert that the EU has become "a more attractive place to start a business than the United Kingdom."

Hunt's statement reflects the concerns raised by Members of Parliament earlier this week when they inquired whether CMA leaders take into account the consequences of their decisions on "the UK's international reputation as a place to do business."

Although it would be an exaggeration to claim that the government and the CMA are in direct conflict over the decision, there is undoubtedly a sense of concern among Members of Parliament and cabinet members regarding the potential effects of the block on corporate willingness to engage in business within the UK. 

This concern is amplified by the fact that the European Union's acceptance of Microsoft's proposed solutions currently paints the UK as an outlier in the international community.

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