UK ratifies Hague-19 Convention in a boost to London litigation

Treaty ensures UK judgments will be recognised in EU and other member countries

The Binnenhof building in The Hague, Netherlands Shutterstock

The UK government has ratified the Hague Convention of 2 July 2019, which provides a uniform framework for recognising and enforcing judgments between the UK and the other contracting states, including all EU member states except Denmark.

Together with the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements 2005, Hague-19, which was signed by the UK government in January, is one of the leading instruments dealing with post-judgment enforcement.

Ratification took place in the Hague at a diplomatic ceremony last week and it will enter into force on 1 July 2025, the first day of the following month, after 12 months have expired, per Article 28 of Hague-19. 

The convention will apply only to proceedings commenced after the in-force date and applies between the UK and the requested state when proceedings were initiated. 

Ratification follows UK legislation and procedure changes, including the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 and the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments (2019 Hague Convention, etc.) Regulations 2024, with new court rules allowing for the requirement for written evidence in support of an application under the 2019 Hague Convention.

Hague-19 has been in force for EU member states since September 2023, so ratification will essentially plug a gap left by Brexit when the UK was obliged to withdraw from the EC’s rules on jurisdiction as well as the Lugano Convention, which also governs enforcement matters and whose signatories are the EU, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Law Society president Nick Emmerson welcomed ratification, saying it would provide greater certainty to consumers and businesses litigating in England and Wales by facilitating the international recognition and enforcement of UK judgments in civil and commercial matters in Europe and beyond.

He added: “It will strengthen England and Wales’s position as the jurisdiction of choice for international dispute resolutions, further enhancing the UK’s reputation as a global legal centre.”

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) partner Ajay Malhotra agreed, saying ratification “is likely to enhance their enforceability in a much wider range of jurisdictions in due course”. 

He pointed out that although the only Hague-19 contracting states aside from the UK and the EU member states are Ukraine and Uruguay “the Convention can be expected, in time, to gain increased acceptance internationally and attract further state signatories”.

Emmerson said the society would continue pressuring for further post-Brexit enhancements to facilitate cross-border enforcement, including accession to the Lugano Convention, the UK’s application to join the convention having been blocked by the EU.

HSF professional support consultant Maura McIntosh questioned whether the UK will ultimately accede to Lugano, which would effectively supersede Hague-19 so far as enforcement of English judgments in the EU was concerned.

While accession to Lugano would provide for a broader range of enforceable English judgments, she noted, “it was not without its downsides” regarding more significant restrictions on the English courts’ ability to exercise jurisdiction. 

She added: “In any event, with the EU thus far not consenting, the UK’s accession to Lugano is still up in the air.”

Portland’s Annual Commercial Courts report found that 64% of litigants in the commercial courts of England and Wales were international parties in 2023-2024, an increase of 5%, while 24% of litigants in those courts were from EU countries, the highest percentage in five years, up from 14.9% in 2018/19.

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