Brexit: dispute resolution between the EU and the UK, under the withdrawal agreement and in the event that there is “no deal”

At a critical time in the Brexit negotiations, in the latest podcast on the Herbert Smith Freehills Podcast channel, Andrew Cannon and Hannah Ambrose discuss dispute resolution between the UK and the EU. They look at the way in which the withdrawal agreement may be enforced, including the possible role of the CJEU, as well as considering how disputes may be resolved in the event of “no deal”.

Andrew and Hannah consider both the common ground and the important gaps between the EU’s and the UK’s proposals for dispute resolution. In particular, they consider the possibility of seeking political resolution before a joint committee, and discuss the limited but apparently agreed role of the CJEU in enforcing the financial settlement. They also address the proposals for mitigation of harm in the event that one side breaches the withdrawal agreement, including financial penalties and suspension of treaty rights and obligations.

Andrew and Hannah also reflect on other state to state dispute resolution procedures which may be palatable to both sides, including the use of arbitration and EFTA docking, as well as explaining why the International Court of Justice is not the right body to enforce the withdrawal agreement.

Moving on to a possible no-deal scenario, Andrew and Hannah contemplate the possibility of disputes about how much the UK is obliged to pay and when. They look at the role of the WTO dispute resolution framework in determining trade disputes, pointing out its restricted remit in the broader context of EU/UK relations, and consider whether individual Member States may have a role in seeking to enforce the UK’s international law obligations.

The podcast can be accessed here: https://soundcloud.com/herbert-smith-freehills/brexit-ep5

Our podcasts are available on iTunesSpotify and SoundCloud and can be accessed on all devices. You can subscribe and be notified of all future episodes.

For further information, please contact Andrew Cannon, Partner, Hannah Ambrose, Senior Associate, or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.

Andrew Cannon
Andrew Cannon
Partner
+44 20 7466 2784
Hannah Ambrose
Hannah Ambrose
Senior Associate
+44 20 7466 7585

English Court finds that the foreign act of state doctrine may apply to arbitration proceedings

In the decision of Reliance Industries Limited & Ors v The Union of India [2018] EWHC 822 (Comm) the English Commercial Court (the Court) considered a number of challenges to an arbitration award brought under sections 67, 68 and 69 of the Arbitration Act 1996 (the 1996 Act). In relation to certain of the challenges made under sections 67 and 68, the Court considered the doctrine of foreign act of state. The Court found that aspects of the doctrine are no less applicable to arbitration proceedings than litigation. It also held, obiter, that where parties including a foreign state ask a tribunal to determine the validity of that foreign state’s act, there can be no objection to the tribunal doing so. Also obiter, the Court considered that a failure to raise act of state in objection to the determination of an issue which has been put to the tribunal, could constitute a waiver of that right to object.

The judgment provides some helpful clarification on the applicability of the foreign act of state doctrine to arbitration and may be of considerable significance to parties which contract with sovereign counterparts.

The Court also considered challenges to the Award under the 1996 Act on various other bases and, in doing so, reiterated the English court’s reluctance to interfere with decisions of arbitral tribunals.  A separate blog post on these other aspects of the judgment can be found here.

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State to state dispute resolution in the UK Government’s White Paper: arbitration with a potential role for the CJEU

The White Paper published yesterday, “The Future Relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union”, includes the UK Government’s proposal for the resolution of disputes between the UK and the EU under what the UK Government views as an “Association Agreement”. This Association Agreement would form the institutional framework for the relationship, with a number of separate agreements (the majority falling within this institutional framework), each covering different elements of economic, security and cross-cutting cooperation.

Under the institutional framework there would be a UK-EU Governing Body, and under that Governing Body and answerable to it, a Joint Committee which would be responsible for the effective and efficient administration of the agreements. The Joint Committee, “through regular and structured dialogue”, would seek to prevent disputes arising, or otherwise play a role in resolving them.

The White Paper emphasises the potential for resolution of disputes through dialogue and non-formal means. However, it also outlines a potential dispute resolution process to ensure that the obligations contained in the institutional framework and agreements can be enforced if needed.

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