Law Society calls for UK to join Hague Judgments Convention to boost enforceability of UK rulings

Joining a global framework to enforce commercial judgments is essential for British business, the Law Society says

The Binnenhof building in The Hague, Netherlands Shutterstock

UK businesses would stand to benefit if the country joined the Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters (Hague-19), according to the president of the Law Society of England and Wales.

The UK’s accession to the Hague-19 convention would help ensure UK businesses have greater confidence entering cross-border contracts and investment relationships, said the Law Society’s president Lubna Shuja in response to a Ministry of Justice consultation.

She said: “The convention provides legal clarity, reduces costs, increases certainty and predictability. It encourages better risk management and shortens timeframes for recognising and enforcing judgments across jurisdictions.”

The convention, which currently has 38 contracting states, provides a framework for enforcing foreign judgments, enabling a judgment from one country to be recognised and enforced in another without requiring lengthy and expensive legal proceedings.

Shuja added: “English court rulings would be readily enforceable in a broader range of jurisdictions than is currently the case. This would make English courts more attractive to international parties, which brings economic benefits to the UK. Without this, British businesses and individuals face a dizzying array of domestic enforcement rules across the 27 EU member states.”

Shuja said UK accession should follow swiftly, as the convention comes into force a year after a country ratifies or accedes to it. She also called for the UK to re-join the Lugano Convention, a more comprehensive framework for rules on jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments between the UK and European Union and European Free Trade Association member states. So far, the EU has been disinclined to support this given political difficulties in UK-EU relations post-Brexit.


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Other legal practitioners are also in favour of the UK’s accession to the convention. Richard Bamforth, a partner at CMS and the co-chair of London International Disputes Week, said the ease of UK court decisions being easily enforced “would be seen as a major advantage for businesses deciding on a forum to resolve their disputes.”

He added: “Businesses are already accessing the benefits of English law and a jurisdiction that combines experience with flexibility. The knowledge that judgments may be more easily enforced internationally will undoubtedly be positive for UK dispute resolution and the British economy.”

Former Law Society president David Greene, speaking on behalf of the London Solicitors Litigation Association, said his members fully supported the Law Society’s call for Hague-19 accession, which would bring greater certainty to litigation processes and outcomes.

He said: “With the UK no longer the beneficiary of the Brussels Regulation and, at least for the time being, the Lugano Convention, [accession to Hague-19] will bring greater certainty to enforcement in the EU because the EU has already deposited its instrument of accession.”

Greene warned that accession to Hague-19 is not a replacement for accession to the Lugano Convention, which is broader in scope but also requires an EU agreement, which he urged the UK government to secure.

Without either convention, enforcing judgments would cost more and the process would be “more clunky”, he said, although enforcement would still be viable.

The Law Society said it would not speculate on how EU member states would react to potential UK accession to the Lugano Convention.

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