Be prepared to register if you are a foreign entity

The Foreign Influence Registration Scheme (FIRS) will compel non-UK businesses and their UK agents or representatives to register if they are engaged in ‘political influencing activity’.

Failure to register would be a criminal offence potentially leading to a fine or imprisonment. The FIRS is included in draft legislation – the National Security Bill - which, if adopted, is foreseen to come into effect in Q1 2023.

The scope of ‘political influencing activity’ is broad. For example, a communication with a senior official at a government department is included if this is intended to influence a government decision (for example, the outcome of a Competition and Markets Authority investigation). Also included is any public communication that does not transparently identify the non-UK business as the author, and which seeks to influence government decision or a political outcome. The rules would also seem to include foreign entities engaging in the supply of goods or services to government (central, regional or local) where that engagement could be characterised as seeking to influence a government decision (namely, the decision to purchase the goods or services).

Notable exceptions to the requirement to register include those working for a foreign power in their official capacity, those with diplomatic immunity, providers of legal services and recognised news publishers.

A foreign entity that will be or may be engaged in political influencing activity should ensure it is familiar with the rules because registration must occur within 10 days of commencing the political influencing activity, or of engaging an agent or representative to undertake such activity.

The register would be publicly available on a government website.

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This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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