Advocate General finds that CETA’s “Investment Court System” is compatible with EU law

One of the Advocates General to the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU“), Advocate General Bot, has issued an opinion confirming that the mechanism for the settlement of disputes between investors and states provided for in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement  between the EU and Canada (the “CETA“) is compatible with European Union (“EU“) law.

If the opinion is adhered to by the CJEU, it confirms the viability of the EU’s mooted Investment Court System (“ICS“) in terms of its co-existence with the EU legal order, and permits the EU to continue to pursue adoption of the ICS on a wider scale across all of the EU’s trade agreements. Continue reading

CJEU upholds opinion of Advocate General and rules that UK can unilaterally cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50

In a landmark decision delivered on an accelerated timetable, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU“) has ruled that a Member State can unilaterally revoke its notice of intention to withdraw from the European Union (“EU“) under Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union (“TEU“), upholding the opinion given by the Advocate General last week (see post).

The CJEU, in Wightman and Others v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, held that an Article 50 TEU notification can be unilaterally revoked if (1) the revocation is submitted in writing to the European Council (“Council“), (2) the revocation is clear and unequivocal, (3) no withdrawal agreement has entered into force, or if no such agreement has been concluded, the two year (or extended) period has not expired, and (4) the revocation is made in accordance with the Member State’s constitutional requirements.

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English Court rejects Ukraine’s attempt to set aside enforcement order on grounds of state immunity

The English Court (the “Court“) has dismissed an application by Ukraine to set aside a court order permitting Russian investor, PAO Tatneft, to enforce an arbitral award against Ukraine.  Ukraine argued that it was immune from the Court’s jurisdiction by virtue of the State Immunity Act 1978. The Court found that Ukraine had not waived its right to rely on state immunity arguments, despite not having raising them in the arbitration. However, it found that Ukraine had agreed to submit the disputes in question to arbitration under the Russia-Ukraine Bilateral Investment Treaty (the “BIT“) and was therefore not immune from proceedings in connection with the arbitration by virtue of s9(1) of the State Immunity Act 1978 (“SIA“).

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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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Dawood Rawat v Mauritius: Dual-national claim dismissed based on treaty context interpretation

 

On 6 April 2018, a Tribunal constituted under the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules rendered an Award on Jurisdiction in the case Dawood Rawat v. The Republic of Mauritius (PCA Case 2016-20).  Following a thorough analysis of the interpretation of the 1973 Investment Protection Treaty between the Republic of France and Mauritius (the “France-Mauritius BIT” or the “Treaty”), the Tribunal denied protection of the relevant investment protection treaty to a dual national – a French-Mauritian businessman – despite the treaty was silent on its application to dual nationals.  This approach was contrary to prior investment treaty decisions, such as Serafín García Armas and other v Venezuela, in which tribunals have rejected jurisdictional objections brought by respondent states where relevant the bilateral investment treaty (“BIT”) was silent on the exclusion of dual nationals.

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Update on the future of ISDS: the discussions within UNCITRAL Working Group III – no apparent consensus to date

After a number of years of public debate in a variety of fora, the discussion of the future development of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) has recently moved to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). UNCITRAL Working Group III (WGIII) has been given a broad mandate to identify concerns regarding ISDS, consider whether reform is desirable and, if so, develop relevant solutions to be recommended to UNCITRAL.

WGIII started its work in the 34th session which took place from 27 November to 1 December 2017. As discussed further below, a number of key points were discussed, including: (i) the duration and costs involved in the procedure; (ii) the allocation of costs; and (iii) transparency. There was also some preliminary consideration of possible developments or changes in relation to the treatment of these issues. The Report of the 34th session indicates that some states advocate a fact-based analysis of ISDS but others note the need to address wider public perceptions of ISDS, as these can raise concerns over the legitimacy of the system.

Bringing the debate about the future of ISDS under the auspices of UNCITRAL, involving high level government representatives from across the world, and also in view of the transparent nature of WGIII’s process, raises the stakes, and perhaps also the prospects, of a more systemic reform. However, whilst the forum has the potential to generate a multilateral plan for ISDS, it is hard to discern any broad consensus at this stage either on the nature of the perceived problems associated with the current system of ad hoc arbitration, or on how those problems may be resolved. This is apparent from the Report and also from the audio recordings (helpfully summarised by IA Reporter, here). The 35th session will take place on April 23 to April 27 2018, following which further clarity on these issues may emerge.

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EU Council publishes Negotiating Directives for Convention establishing a Multilateral Investment Court: no real surprises but a couple of gaps

On 20 March, 2018 the Council of the European Union published negotiating directives dated 1 March 2018 authorizing the European Commission to negotiate a convention establishing a multilateral court for the settlement of investment disputes between investors and states. Whilst the detailed characteristics of the proposed multilateral investment court (the MIC) will be developed during the course of the negotiations, the Negotiating Directives give considerable indication of the EU’s intentions as to the MIC’s features.

The Negotiating Directives have their origin in the Commission’s Recommendation for a Council Decision authorising the opening of negotiations for a Convention establishing a multilateral investment court, published in September 2017.  This included a recommendation that negotiating directives be drawn up and made public immediately after their adoption.  The Commission has since commented that “the EU’s new policy on investment is fundamentally based on transparency” and that publication of the Negotiating Directives allows the EU “to continue to work with like-minded partners around the globe” towards creating a MIC, “knowing that EU citizens are fully informed of [its] negotiating instructions”.

Whilst the EU introduced its intention to move towards a multilateral system in a Concept Paper in 2015 (see our blog post here), the Commission’s Recommendation itself came shortly after UNCITRAL indicated in its 50th Session in July 2017 that UNCITRAL Working Group III would consider possible reform of investor-state dispute settlement.  This work began in the Working Group’s 34th session in November 2017, with its next session due to take place on 23 to 27 April 2018.  It will therefore be seen as no coincidence that the EU has chosen to publish these negotiating directives at this stage, and they will set the framework for the participation of the EU and its Member States, as further considered below.  The EU has also submitted a paper to the Working Group in advance of its next session highlighting its concerns over the current system of ISDS.

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State-to-State Dispute Settlement under the EU’s latest draft of the Withdrawal Agreement: CJEU jurisdiction remains

On 15 March 2018 the European Commission published a revised version of the draft Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK previously published on 28 February 2018 following consultation with the Member States and the European Parliament. The revised document has been transmitted to the UK for negotiation. A comparison between the two drafts is available on our Brexit notes blog here.

In terms of State-to-State dispute settlement, little has changed since our blog post on 2 March 2018.

As was seen in the previous draft, under Part Six, Title III (“Dispute Settlement”), the Withdrawal Agreement proposes that a Joint Committee (co-chaired by representatives from each of the UK and the EU) be established to resolve disputes regarding the interpretation or application of the Withdrawal Agreement. In the event that the dispute cannot be resolved, then the Joint Committee itself, or either one of the UK or the EU, can refer the dispute to the CJEU under Article 162 (para. 1). The ruling from the CJEU is binding, and non-compliance with that ruling may result in the CJEU issuing a “lump sum or penalty payment”.

However, there is a slight change in when the rights of the EU or the UK arise to suspend rights and obligations in the event of such a dispute. Article 162 (para. 2) now states that, in the event that the dispute is not referred to the CJEU under paragraph 1 of that provision, then the EU or the UK may suspend aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement (other than those related to citizens’ rights) or any agreement between them “proportionate” to the gravity of the breach. In a further addition, paragraph 2 now states the EU or the UK, as the case may be, shall inform the other Party of its intention to suspend and allow the other Party, within 20 days, to remedy the situation. Any suspension shall take effect no earlier than 20 days after its notification to the other Party.

In view of the sensitivities over CJEU jurisdiction discussed in our earlier blog post, it will be interesting to see how the UK responds.

For further information, please contact Andrew Cannon, Partner, Vanessa Naish, Professional Support Consultant, Hannah Ambrose, Professional Support Consultant or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.

Andrew Cannon
Andrew Cannon
Partner
+33 15 357 6552
Vanessa Naish
Vanessa Naish
Professional Support Consultant
+44 20 7466 2112
Hannah Ambrose
Hannah Ambrose
Professional Support Consultant
+44 20 7466 7585

State-to-State dispute settlement under the EU’s draft Withdrawal Agreement: CJEU jurisdiction not arbitration

We have known for some time now that the UK and EU have very different views regarding the state-to-state dispute resolution mechanism to be contained in the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK. The EU has never made any secret of its intention for the CJEU to adjudicate on disputes between the UK and the EU over the interpretation of, and compliance with, the Withdrawal Agreement. Yesterday the EU released a draft Withdrawal Agreement for the UK’s consideration which contains a state-to-state dispute resolution provision which is consistent with that approach. This post provides an initial reaction to this draft provision.

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UK Supreme Court confirms the limited scope of state and diplomatic immunity from employment claims: Benkharbouche and Reyes

In two judgments handed down on 18 October 2017, the Supreme Court (the “Court”) has allowed certain employment claims made by foreign nationals employed as domestic workers at the embassies of foreign states and a diplomat’s residence to proceed despite claims of immunity. The judgments consider important aspects of state and diplomatic immunity, the differences between the two, and wider considerations of the interplay between domestic, EU and international law.

In Benkharbouche (Respondent) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Appellant) and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Libya (Appellants) v Janah (Respondent) [2017] UKSC 62, the Court held that certain provisions of the State Immunity Act 1978 (“SIA”) barring the claims were not justified by any rule of customary international law and were therefore incompatible with both Article 6 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”) and Article 47 (right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial) of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (the “Charter”). The Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s decision to (i) disapply these provisions of the SIA to the extent that they conflicted with EU law (Article 47 of the Charter), thereby allowing the employment claims that derive from EU law (discrimination, harassment and holiday pay) to proceed, and (ii) to make a declaration of incompatibility in respect of the SIA provisions under Article 6 of the ECHR – this being the only remedy available in respect of the domestic claims not derived from EU law (including unpaid wages and unfair dismissal), which therefore remained barred.

In Reyes (Appellant/Cross Respondent) v Al-Malki and another (Respondents/Cross-Appellants) [2017] UKSC 61, the Court found that a diplomat’s immunity after leaving his or her post is limited by Article 39 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 (the “Vienna Convention”) to acts performed in the exercise of their diplomatic functions, regardless of whether the diplomat was otherwise entitled to immunity at the time the relevant acts took place. The Court held that the employment and mistreatment of domestic staff does not fall under the category of acts performed in the exercise of diplomatic functions and allowed Ms Reyes’ appeal.

Please see here for our previous blog post on both Court of Appeal decisions.
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