Current state of play

  • There is currently one set of rules governing which country should have jurisdiction in a dispute, and the recognition and enforcement of civil and commercial court judgments between member states. The general rule is that the courts of the member state where the defendant is domiciled have jurisdiction. This is subject to a number of exceptions, including:
    • where the parties have agreed that the courts of another member state should have jurisdiction;
    • cases involving particular subject matter where the courts of a Member State have exclusive jurisdiction (for example, real estate); and
    • cases involving employment contracts, consumer contracts or contracts of insurance.
  • Parallel proceedings in the courts of more than one member state are prohibited where those proceedings involve the same or related issues.
  • There is mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments between member state courts subject to limited exceptions.

What should I be thinking about now?

  • Do I need to think about amending jurisdiction clauses in agreements conferring jurisdiction on the English courts?
  • I do business in the EU from the UK. All of the contracts with my clients are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts. What can I do to make service of English proceedings as straightforward as possible if a Brexit occurs?
  • Should I be concerned that English judgments will no longer be as easily enforceable in the EU in the event of a Brexit, and if so is there anything I can do about it?
  • I am based in Germany and regularly deal with customers in the UK. If I successfully sue any of my customers in the German courts, will I be able to enforce the resulting judgment in the UK if Britain leaves the EU?
  • As a US business operating in a number of EU countries, including the UK, should I be concerned at the risk of parallel proceedings if I sue an Italian counterparty in England? Would it make enforcement of judgments easier if my business’ contractual arrangements were subject to the jurisdiction of a member state other than the UK?

The answers to many of these questions will depend upon the nature of a post-Brexit UK/EU relationship.