As noted in our previous blog post, where English legal proceedings are started before the Brexit transition period comes to an end, most likely on 31 December 2020, a judgment obtained pursuant to those proceedings will be readily enforceable in the EU under the recast Brussels Regulations. After that, the position depends, in part, on whether the 2005 Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements applies and whether any further arrangements are agreed between the UK and the EU before the end of transition. Otherwise, the question of whether and how an English judgment is enforceable in the EU post-transition will depend on local rules in each country. Most (but not necessarily all) EU Member States will enforce foreign judgments even without a specific treaty or convention, although the type of judgment enforced may be more limited and the procedures may be more time-consuming and costly.
In that context, it is worth noting a couple of positive developments regarding the UK’s accession to the Hague Convention and, potentially, the Lugano Convention.
Hague: As anticipated, the UK has not yet re-acceded to the Hague Convention, as it would have done with effect from 1 February if there had been a “no-deal” Brexit on 31 January. The UK’s declaration submitted to the Hague depositary on 31 January notes that it is withdrawing its instrument of accession as, during the Brexit transition period, EU law, including the Convention, will continue to apply to and in the UK. It notes that the UK “attaches importance to the seamless continuity” of the Convention’s application, and states the UK’s intention to “deposit a new instrument of accession at the appropriate time prior to the termination of the transition period”. Assuming an end date of 31 December 2020, this means depositing the new instrument of accession by the end of September.
Where Hague applies, English judgments will be readily enforceable around the EU (and in the other Hague contracting states, currently Mexico, Montenegro and Singapore). However, the Hague Convention only applies where there is an exclusive jurisdiction clause which was entered into after the Convention came into force for the chosen state. As noted in our previous post (linked above) there is some uncertainty as to the Convention’s application to exclusive jurisdiction clauses in favour of the UK courts which were entered into before the UK re-joins Hague following the end of the transition period.
Lugano: The Lugano Convention currently applies as between the EU (including the UK, during the transition period) and EFTA countries Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. If the UK were to accede to the Convention in its own right from the end of the transition period (or thereafter), it would then also apply as between the UK and the EU. The result would be that there would be little change from the current regime in relation to jurisdiction and enforcement, and English judgments would continue to be readily enforceable throughout the EU and in EFTA countries. There would be no need to rely on the Hague Convention (which would continue to apply as between the UK and Mexico, Montenegro and Singapore) or on local laws regarding enforcement of foreign judgments in the relevant countries.
Unlike the Hague Convention, where accession does not depend on agreement with other contracting states, the UK’s accession to Lugano requires agreement from the EU, Denmark (which has an “opt-out” of justice and home affairs matters under relevant EU treaties), Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. It is therefore a positive development that the UK has received statements of support from Iceland, Norway and Switzerland for its intention to accede to the Lugano Convention, as the government announced on 29 January.