Britain to reap £1.5 bn from EU’s feud with Google

Britain stands to recoup up to £1.55bn as part of the Brexit divorce bill thanks to Europe’s long-running legal battles with Google.

The European Commission has issued more than £6.5bn in fines against the tech giant over its alleged monopolistic practices, with appeals to these cases being heard in Luxembourg.

According to EU budget documents published this week, the Commission owes up to €1.8bn (£1.55bn) to the UK from outstanding fines, although that amount could change if Google wins its appeals.

The budget documents state: “The EU will pay the UK, each year, its share of any competition fines that had been decided upon by the Union before 31 December 2020, once these fines become definitive.”

A judgment in the first case, a fine of £2bn handed down to Google in 2017 over its alleged abuses of its online shopping service, is expected later in 2021.

After long delays since the appeal was heard in February last year, a ruling could be handed down in weeks, according to lawyers close to the case. A formal date has yet to be formally listed, a court spokesman said.

Google can still appeal the ruling to a higher court, meaning the UK could face a wait of years to receive the funds.

Hearings are due to begin in a second dispute, Google’s row with the European Commission over its dominance of its Android phone operating system, in September.

A third fine of around £1.3bn over Google’s digital advertising technology, handed down in 2019, still has no date for its appeal in Luxembourg.

The fines on Google and other technology firms have been meted out under the EU’s powerful competition tsar, Margrethe Vestager, as part of Europe’s crackdown on the dominance of US technology firms.

The cash from the competition cases is by far the biggest amount the EU owes the UK as part of the Brexit divorce deal, with Britain expected to pay a total of €49.6bn, according to the budget document. A total of €7bn will be paid in 2021, the documents say.

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