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UK-EU Agreement silent on jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments

December 29, 2020

The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) does not address jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments in civil proceedings. Proceedings that start after January 1, 2021 will be subject to a combination of rules set out in the Hague Choice of Courts Convention, the Brussels Regulation (for the EU Member States) and the local laws of each of the EU Member States and the UK (for more details on this, see our website here).

The UK has applied to accede to the Lugano Convention and this request has been approved by all other parties to that Convention except the EU. The Lugano Convention would apply a set of rules between the UK and the EU (as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) that is similar to the existing Brussels Regulation. Although the EU Commission had previously expressed some hesitation about the UK’s accession, there was some expectation that it might be addressed in the TCA, as future difficulties in jurisdiction and enforcement could constitute a significant non-tariff barrier to trade between the EU and the UK and lead to expense and complexity for EU and UK businesses.

As it is not addressed in the TCA, a decision from the EU on the UK’s accession to the Lugano Convention is still pending. Until then, English courts will revert to the Hague Convention and the common law regime, characterised by a robust and commercial approach respecting the parties’ choice of jurisdiction backed by a vigorous use of anti-suit injunctions. While this is perfectly workable, especially from the UK perspective, the Lugano Convention would create a more level playing field and lower barriers to trade, in accordance with the stated aims of the TCA.