The UK takes a step to increase certainty for those trading across borders

23rd January 2024

Following a consultation that concluded last year, 12 January 2024 saw the UK government sign the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial matters that was made on 2 July 2019 – known as “Hague 2019” or the “2019 Judgments Convention“.

Steps will now be put in place to introduce the legislation and court rules needed for implementation and ratification of this private international law convention so far as the UK is concerned.

Although countries commonly have their own domestic rules for the recognition and enforcement of judgments of the courts of other jurisdictions, they vary from state to state, and this can give rise to considerable uncertainties and challenges for the effective enforcement of legal entitlements arising under contracts.

Hague 2019 seeks to address this by providing a uniform scheme that can be relied upon for the recognition and enforcement of judgments of the courts of contracting states as between those states.

The convention rules will not come into effect immediately for the UK, but will apply to judgments made in proceedings that are commenced a year on from ratification – likely at some point in 2025. When in force however, there will be a coherent framework in place for the recognition and enforcement of a significant body of judgments as between the UK and the other contracting states. These include the EU member states, apart from Denmark, and Ukraine.

Uruguay has also ratified the convention, with it due to enter into force for them later this year. There are also a number of other signatory states, with ratifications that can be expected to follow.

The 2005 Convention on Choice of Court Agreements – “Hague 2005” – already applies for the UK, but its application is restricted, for example, to circumstances where parties to a commercial contract have agreed that the courts of a contracting state shall have exclusive jurisdiction in respect of a dispute.

Hague 2019 is of distinctly broader application however, and will apply where a court assumes jurisdiction in circumstances where a jurisdiction is not exclusively attached.

The scheme of Hague 2019 is not unlimited in its scope though. It may be of no real assistance where, for instance, there is no contract between the parties, and there will be technical issues that will need to be carefully considered in any one case.

Where the convention scheme does not apply, it may be necessary to explore whether one of the other private international law treaties or the domestic law of a defendant’s state will come to the aid of the enforcing party.

However, in a post-Brexit world, the UK’s decision to commit to ratification of Hague 2019 is a significant and important development. Businesses trading across borders look for predictability, procedural efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the legal frameworks that govern their dealings and Hague 2019 seeks to provide this. The step should therefore aid the building of confidence in the UK for inward and outward investment.

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