Hague Judgments Convention: what will UK implementation look like?

7 minute read
02 May 2024

The UK Government has laid draft regulations for approval by Parliament, moving the UK one step closer to bringing the Hague Judgments Convention 2019 into force and paving the way for smoother cross-border enforcement of judgments. Here, we take a closer look at what's being proposed, key benefits and the timeline for implementation.

To recap our previous articles on the topic - covering news of the regulations coming into force between the EU and Ukraine, the outcome of the UK consultation on its adoption and analysis on what to expect in the UK - the Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters (the 2019 Convention) looks (as its title indicates) to improve mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments across borders and thereby facilitate international commerce. In common with other Hague Conventions, it sets uniform rules - in this case, for the enforcement of civil and commercial court judgments - between signatory states, giving international trading parties a degree of certainty of process (and cost-saving) in cross-border litigation, thereby reducing friction and promoting confidence in international trade.

As we have previously explained, the UK Government is moving swiftly towards making the UK a party to the 2019 Convention. Following a UK consultation process, in which the Convention was positively received (not least as becoming a signatory would claw back some of the benefits of the Brussels and Lugano cross-border litigation regimes the UK lost as a result of Brexit), the UK signed the 2019 Convention in January this year, joining the likes of the USA, EU and Israel as signatories. However, the 2019 Convention will not enter into force for the UK until domestic legislation has been passed to implement it.

On 29 April 2024, the UK Government brought us a step closer when it laid the draft Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments (2019 Hague Convention etc.) Regulations 2024 before Parliament. This catchily titled statutory instrument shows us how (subject to approval) the Government plans to implement the 2019 Convention in the UK. The draft regulations and accompanying explanatory memorandum give some interesting insights:

  • The implementation of the 2019 Convention is to be by way of an amendment to the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 (the 1982 Act).
  • The proposed amendment will also make adjustments to the way in which the 1982 Act implements the Hague Convention of 30 June 2005 on Choice of Court Agreements (the 2005 Convention) (which forms part of the same, wider Hague Convention Judgments Project as the 2019 Convention).
  • The proposed benefits to the UK of the 2019 Convention are said to be:
    • "greater certainty and predictability for citizens and businesses dealing in cross-border civil and commercial disputes, about when judgments from courts in the UK will be recognised and enforced in the courts of other Contracting Parties to the Convention, and when judgments from those parties can be recognised and enforced in the UK"; and
    • "a uniform set of rules for a wide range of judgments between the UK and other Contracting Parties… designed to increase confidence in the UK legal system; support international trade, investment and cross-border mobility; enhance access to justice and reduce the costs for litigants of determining whether a judgment obtained from one court is enforceable in another Contracting Party".
  • Consistent with the approach taken in relation to the 2005 Convention, the proposed approach is to create a registration requirement within the 1982 Act for parties seeking recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in the UK under the 2019 Convention. A party seeking registration will need to apply to a UK court, providing limited evidence of compliance with the 2019 Convention requirements (focussed primarily on compliance with the procedural and documentary requirements of the 2019 Convention - see Articles 4(3), 5, 6 and 12), and with the UK Courts expected to undertake only limited initial consideration of that evidence at the registration stage. The registration process is designed to be "as straightforward as possible".
  • The party against which enforcement is sought will not be able to make representations at the registration application stage, and will instead have to challenge any registration decision by way of a set-aside application (at which stage arguments regarding whether any of the grounds for refusing recognition or enforcement under the 2019 Convention exist can be raised).
  • A corresponding amendment is proposed as the route to challenge registration decisions in respect of the 2005 Convention (which currently allows a right of appeal, not set-aside).

What are the next steps towards implementation?

Under the affirmative parliamentary process, the draft regulations will now need to be debated and approved by both houses of parliament. While we had previously questioned whether this process would be completed in a UK general election year, we now know that a May election is off the cards and so the regulations, which are likely to garner cross-party support, look set to pass in a matter of weeks.

Although it will then be a further 12 months from ratification before the 2019 Convention formally comes into force as regards the UK, this marks a further positive step towards providing certainty and confidence in cross-border trade and litigation for international businesses with operations in the UK, or contracting under English law.

If you have any questions around the introduction of the 2019 Convention, or would like to discuss any other cross-border / international disputes or enforcement matters, please contact Sean Adams or Tom Price.

For more insight into the Hague Judgments Convention, please see our earlier articles below:

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