The UK government has today published its Response to Consultation on joining the Hague Convention of 2 July 2019 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters (Hague 2019). The response concludes that it is the right time for the UK to join Hague 2019. It intends to sign as soon as possible and then to ratify once the necessary implementing legislation and rules have been put in place.

Hague 2019 will enter into force for the UK 12 months after ratification, so presumably sometime (hopefully early) in 2025. It will then apply to the enforcement of judgments between the UK and the other contracting states (which by that time will include at least Ukraine, Uruguay, and all EU member states except Denmark) in proceedings issued after that date.

The key benefit of Hague 2019 is to provide a uniform framework for the recognition and enforcement of judgments internationally. The Response to Consultation notes that all 39 respondents were of the view that the UK should join, identifying potential benefits such as helping to promote the UK as a forum for dispute resolution by providing greater certainty as to enforcement, facilitating more cost-effective resolution of disputes and supporting international trade and business.

Hague 2019 will allow enforcement of judgments in much broader circumstances than the 2005 Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements, which applies between the UK and all EU member states (as well as Mexico, Singapore, Montenegro and Ukraine) but only where there is an exclusive jurisdiction clause in favour of the courts of a contracting state. Hague 2019 will apply, in contrast, where the court took jurisdiction under a non-exclusive jurisdiction clause, including a unilateral clause, or on various other grounds specified in Hague 2019, such as where the claim is for breach of contract and the relevant obligation was to be performed in the state of the court that gave the judgment. It is also wider in scope than the 2005 Convention, applying for example to employment and consumer contracts.

As the list of contracting states continues to expand, Hague 2019 will apply to the enforcement of judgments between the UK and those new states, in each case in proceedings issued 12 months after ratification by the new state. However, Hague 2019 includes provisions which would allow the UK to (in effect) opt out of applying the Convention between itself and the new state (or vice versa). States that have signed Hague 2019 but have yet to ratify it include the US, Israel and Russia.

The UK’s decision to join Hague 2019 is a helpful step in facilitating enforcement of English and other UK judgments abroad, particularly post-Brexit as the recast Brussels Regulation and Lugano Convention no longer apply to the UK.