UK signs Hague Judgments Convention

4 minute read
18 January 2024

Following the positive response to a consultation last year, on 12 January 2024 the UK signed the Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters (the Convention) – which stands to improve mutual recognition of judgments across borders and thereby improve international commerce. Here, we look at what the Convention will do, and when.

What does the Convention do?

The Convention is designed to set uniform rules to facilitate the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters in those jurisdictions that sign up to it, making it easier for parties in international disputes to export judgments from one jurisdiction to another for enforcement. It is part of a broader suite of Hague instruments that seek to make uniform international rules governing issues of jurisdiction and enforcement – it joins the 2005 Hague Convention on Choice of Courts, and there is a more comprehensive jurisdiction convention in the long-term pipeline.

As we reported in our earlier article, the Convention officially entered into force on 1 September 2023 between its first two parties – the EU (including all EU states, except Denmark) and Ukraine. That the EU had acceded to the Convention was particularly significant for the UK, which had, as a result of Brexit, lost the benefit of the Brussels and Lugano regimes on jurisdiction and enforcement which it had enjoyed while an EU member. The Convention therefore presents an opportunity to regain some level of reciprocal footing in these matters with important EU trading partners, and so reduce friction for international businesses and improve trade.

The UK Government's consultation on joining the Convention received an overwhelmingly positive response in November 2023, precipitating the UK's signing this month.

When will the Convention enter into force for the UK?

Although other countries, including the USA, Russia, Israel and now the UK, have signed the Convention, it will not enter into force in those jurisdictions until 12 months after it is ratified. In the UK's case, ratification will involve the laying of legislation and rules to ensure the smooth operation of the Convention across the UK's three separate legal jurisdictions (England and Wales; Scotland; and Northern Ireland). While passing the necessary legislation is unlikely to be controversial, whoever prevails in the looming General Election, there may well be insufficient parliamentary time to ratify the Convention before the legislative shutters come down for electioneering – the inevitable consequence of which would be to push the entry into force of the Convention deep into 2025.

Nonetheless, for international businesses, this is a positive step towards providing more certainty and saving time and money in litigation across borders.

If you have any questions around the introduction of the Convention, or would like to discuss any other litigation-related matters, please contact Sean Adams or Tom Price.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.