As discussed in our previous article in September 2023, late last year, the UK government launched a two-month consultation on whether the UK should join the Hague Judgments Convention 2019 (HJC). This consultation closed on 9 February 2023, with the outcome following on 23 November 2023 that the UK looks set to join the HJC “as soon as practicable”.
The UK government has stated that the ratification process will follow promptly. However, it is important to note that the HJC will not come into effect in the UK for 12 months following its ratification, so it will not be fully functional until the end of 2024 at the earliest and will depend on when ratification occurs. Following its implementation, the HJC will apply to the enforcement of judgments between the UK and any other countries which are a party to the HJC. By 2025, the participating countries will include all EU Member States (excluding Denmark), Ukraine and Uruguay. Uruguay has signed and ratified the HJC and it will come into effect for them on 1 October 2024.
Benefits of acceding to HJC
To recap, the HJC expands upon the 2005 Hague Convention – whereas the latter deals with choice of court agreements, the HJC now provides a much more predictable set of rules for the enforcement of foreign judgments in the absence of exclusive jurisdiction clauses. See our October 2022 briefing here, which sets out an overview.
The effect of the UK’s decision to join the HJC will likely ensure easier enforcement of judgments between Ireland, the UK and other EU member states. It will aid in the enforcement of UK judgments abroad following Brexit. As previously discussed, the UK’s departure from the EU resulted in its withdrawal from various EU conventions, including the Brussels 1 Recast Regulation (Brussels Recast) and the Lugano Convention. This had a detrimental impact on the enforcement of judgments across the UK as these private international law conventions could no longer be relied upon. Similarly, members of the EU were met with a complex system of enforcing UK judgments across member states. Thus, the UK’s decision to join the HJC will likely improve the enforcement of judgments from both a UK and EU perspective, notwithstanding that the HJC is narrower in scope than the Brussels Recast and the Lugano Convention.
Aside from the UK, various countries have signed the HJC but are yet to ratify it. These countries include the USA, Russia, Costa Rica, and Israel, meaning they are yet to become contracting states of the HJC. It is hoped that the ratification of the HJC in the UK will lead to a ripple effect, encouraging other countries, including those listed above, to ratify the HJC. This could ensure the HJC’s widespread use across the world, leading to smoother recognition and enforcement of court judgments from one contracting state’s courts to another and increased judicial co-operation. As 2023 draws to a close, with the latest development vis-à-vis the UK, the HJC looks set to play a vital role in the future private international law landscape longer term, perhaps more than anticipated at the beginning of the year.
Thanks to Sarah-Jane McCusker for her assistance in preparing this piece.