British flag and EU flag in background, with two men with folded hands on opposite sides of a table. Concept for how to enforce judgments of EU Courts in England

We frequently assist internationally-based individuals and businesses seeking to enforce judgments of EU courts in England.

Prior to Brexit, enforcing a judgment of an EU member state court in England was a relatively straightforward process. Post-Brexit, the rules are different and businesses with judgments from EU courts are likely to need assistance navigating them.

The implications of Brexit – the previous regime under EU law

Judgments arising out of court proceedings initiated prior to 31 December 2020 can be enforced under the previous EU framework. The process involves obtaining a standard form certificate from the court that gave the judgment to verify that it is enforceable and serving a copy of the certificate and judgment on the defendant. Following those steps, the claimant is entitled to enforce the judgment as if it were a judgment of the English court.

However, for judgments resulting from court proceedings initiated after Brexit, the position is not as straightforward. There are different procedures that apply depending on the particular circumstances of the case.

Enforcement under the Hague Convention

All EU member states are bound by the Hague Convention. The UK became bound by the Hague Convention by virtue of its membership of the EU on 1 October 2015 and joined the Convention in its own right post-Brexit on 1 January 2021.

The Hague Convention can be used for enforcement where the judgment is given by a member state court that has been designated in a contract between the parties as having exclusive jurisdiction over matters relating to the contract.

The process of enforcement under the Convention is more complex than the procedure under the EU framework in place prior to 31 December 2020, but if the conditions are met and the judgment is registered in England, it is enforceable as it if the judgment had been given by an English court.

Using English common law rules to enforce judgments of EU courts

If an EU member state judgment is not covered by the Hague Convention, it may be possible to use English common law rules in order to enforce it in England. There are a number of requirements that must be met. For example, the judgment must be for a debt or definite sum of money and be final and conclusive.

There are many limitations with the common law rules. Under EU law, there are situations where jurisdiction over a dispute lies with the courts of the country where contractual obligations were performed or where the “harmful event” occurred. Judgments given in these circumstances would not be covered by the common law rules.

If the common law rules do apply, the claimant will have to issue fresh court proceedings in England and then obtain judgment here before the original judgment can be enforced. This is a lengthier and more complex process than that under the Hague Convention or previous EU rules described above.

Future developments

It is possible that the EU will accede to the Hague Judgments Convention, which will make judgments of contracting states eligible for recognition and enforcement in a wider range of circumstances.

If the UK is permitted to accede to the Lugano Convention of its own right, that would also provide a way for claimants to register judgments of courts in EU member states in England. The procedure under the Lugano Convention requires the judgment to be registered, so it is more protracted than the previous regime under EU law, but still more straightforward than the common law regime. However, accession by the UK involves consent from the EU and so far that has not been forthcoming.

If you have a judgment from a court in an EU member state and would like advice on enforcement in England, please get in touch and our Commercial Dispute Resolution can assist you.

We can help you to identify the correct procedure and assist you with the process.