The UK government has opened a consultation seeking views on its plan for the UK to ratify the Hague Convention of 2019 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters (the “Hague Judgments Convention”).
The Hague Judgments Convention is designed to make it easier for litigants to enforce civil and commercial judgments across international borders. The premise of the convention is that judicial cooperation promotes effective access to justice for all, and the facilitation of rules-based multilateral trade and investment. The convention is intended to provide the framework for that judicial cooperation.
Recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments – that is both UK judgments abroad, and foreign judgments in the UK – was impacted by Brexit. The UK’s departure from the EU included its exit from two European agreements dealing with jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments: the Brussels Recast Regulation, and the Lugano Convention. The UK therefore applied in April 2020 to re-join Lugano, since Lugano expressly contemplates accession by non-EU/EFTA states. Like the Hague Judgments Convention, Lugano provides a framework for the recognition and enforcement of judgments between contracting states. But unlike the Hague Judgments Convention, Lugano also includes rules to determine which courts have jurisdiction to determine international civil and commercial disputes. As such, Lugano is a more comprehensive framework for international civil and judicial cooperation. However, the EU opposed the UK’s application to re-join Lugano, stating that Lugano was intended only for EU and EFTA states (see our previous post).
The UK government therefore sees the Hague Judgments Convention as the best currently-available basis for establishing a framework for the mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments between the UK and the EU. Alongside Ukraine, the EU ratified the convention in August 2022 (see our previous post). Costa Rica, Israel, Russia, the US and Uruguay have each signed the convention but not yet ratified it. The hope is that the Hague Judgments Convention will gain further traction internationally, and so will improve civil and judicial cooperation not only between the UK and EU states, but also between the UK and non-EU states.
The Hague Judgments Convention is one product of work begun by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) in 1992. The HCCH’s project was initially more ambitious: to harmonise the rules around both the international jurisdiction of courts as well as the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. However, it was subsequently split up into more manageable phases. The first phase of work led to the 2005 Convention on Choice of Court Agreements. The HCCH then renewed its work around recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments, the result of which was the Hague Judgments Convention in 2019 on which the UK government now consults. In 2020, the HCCH returned to the issue of jurisdiction in international civil and commercial matters, and work towards a future convention in this area is ongoing.
The UK government's consultation will be open until 9 February 2023, after which it will publish a paper summarising the responses received in spring 2023.