UK to sign 2019 Hague Convention as soon as possible
The decision follows a consultation held earlier in 2023 that produced almost unanimous support among respondents throughout the UK, according to the government.
The convention offers a multilateral framework of uniform rules for the recognition and enforcement of a wide range of judgments between the UK and other 2019 Hague Convention-contracting parties. These currently include the European Union (minus Denmark) and Ukraine, although its reach is set to expand over the coming years. A number of countries including Israel, Uruguay and the US have already signed the convention, although not all have yet ratified it.
The UK's accession is particularly important in the present absence of a comprehensive private international framework between the UK and the EU covering civil and commercial matters. Since Brexit, the UK has ceased to be a member of Regulation (EU) 1215/2012 (known as ‘Brussels I Recast’) and the Lugano Convention of 2007 on Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments (the Lugano Convention). There is no bilateral judgment enforcement treaty between the UK and US, so that a UK judgment can be enforced in the US only using the laws and procedure of the particular state where enforcement is sought.
The loss of access to Brussels I Recast and the Lugano Convention has caused some complexities and uncertainties in relation to the enforcement of UK judgments in the EU and some of the Lugano states, says law firm Pinsent Masons. The only multilateral judgment enforcement treaty involving the EU which the UK now benefits from is the Hague Convention of 2005 on Choice of Court Agreements (the 2005 Hague Convention). The 2005 Hague Convention provides for the enforcement of judgments between convention parties, including the EU, UK and some other jurisdictions, but only where a judgment has been given by a court specified in an exclusive jurisdiction clause between the parties. The 2005 Hague Convention does not therefore assist with the enforcement of UK judgments in circumstances where there is no contract between the parties. Although most UK judgments remain enforceable in those states under either domestic laws or the 2005 Hague Convention, the accession to the 2019 Hague Convention will provide a more comprehensive enforcement solution EU-wide, says Pinsent Masons.
Moreover, joining the 2019 Hague Convention does not prevent the UK from joining the Lugano Convention in future. Nor does it change existing domestic law, on which parties can continue to rely for the recognition and enforcement of judgments not covered by the 2019 Hague Convention. The government says that the 2019 Hague Convention also includes provisions that would allow the UK to decline to apply the terms of the convention with another state party, should it be considered to go against UK policy.
'Joining Hague 2019 will provide businesses and consumers greater confidence when conducting cross-border transactions in the knowledge there will be clear and effective mechanisms in place to recognise and enforce UK judgments in other jurisdictions and vice versa', said the government. This will also help to strengthen the UK's position as a preferred forum for dispute resolution.
Some respondents to the consultation warned of the risk that the UK would be obliged to recognise and enforce foreign judgments when there would not have been such an obligation under the common law or existing arrangements. The government acknowledges the risk, but says it considers that there are adequate safeguards under the 2019 Hague Convention to address it.
The 2019 Hague Convention will not come into force for the UK until 12 months after ratification takes place and will apply only to judgments given in certain proceedings commenced after that date.
It will be implemented in UK domestic law with UK-wide extent, principally using powers in the Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Act 2020, subject to parliamentary scrutiny. The government also intends to work with the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories to determine if it should extend to these territories.
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