Wondering whether foreign judgement enforcement is possible in the UK after Brexit or not? The truth is that a foreign judgement can be enforced in the country based on when it was given, what jurisdiction provisions the involved parties agreed upon, which court gave the judgement, and many other factors. Let’s explore five possible ways for foreign judgement enforcement in the UK!

Hague Convention

The Hague Convention only applies to agreements that provide exclusive jurisdiction to the participating state’s courts. Any judgement chosen by courts in this way is enforceable in all participating states. A state can only refuse a judgement if it’s obtained by fraud or incompatible with an earlier English judgement.

The Hague Convention was brought into effect in English law through the Private International Law Act 2020. The parties of this convention include the UK, the EU, and Singapore. So, a judgement given in one of these states is enforceable in the country if the judgement comes after the convention was brought into effect in the state that passed it.

Administration of Justice Act 1920

This act enables the registration and enforcement of money-related judgements given in specific foreign states that were part of the British Empire, such as Cyprus, Nigeria, the Cayman Islands, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, and Malta. Even though registration for the judgement is not mandatory, it might be ordered in the absence of a good reason.

The court provides 12 months after the foreign judgement to apply for registration, but it can extend this time. It can only be refused when the judgement is obtained through fraud or contradicts public policy, and the judgement debtor was not in the relevant state for business or a resident of the state. It can’t be made if there’s a pending appeal.

The jurisdiction requires that an individual facing court proceedings in a country where they are not usually present and have not agreed to it must determine whether to partake in the proceedings or not. If they do, they will submit to the court’s jurisdiction and will retain their ability to challenge English enforcements on jurisdictional grounds. If they don’t, the judgement will be entered against them.

Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1933

Foreign Judgements Act applies to conclusive money judgements. It is used in mutual enforcement treaties between the UK and other states and has similar jurisdictional requirements as the Administration of Justice Act 1920. However, the registration of foreign judgement is not subject to discretion in this act. It applies to countries like Pakistan, Norway, Australia, Canada, and Israel.

Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1933: Special Cases

This act also applies to six members of the EU, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Germany, France, and the Netherlands, because of treaties between these members and the UK between 1930s-1960s. This act and the treaties were superseded by the Brussels Convention and EU regulations.

It brings up the question of their revival post-Brexit. The matter is not clear from the EU end. However, section 6 of the 1933 act states that if the judgement registration under the act is possible, it’s the only way available in the UK to recover the debt from the judgment.

The Common Law

The common law process of foreign judgement enforcement in the UK is only available when there is no other way to enforce a judgement. It is used for judgements from the US, Russia, China, and Spain. Under the common law, the English court will treat a foreign judgement as creating a debt due from the judgement debtor to the judgement creditor if the judgement meets specific conditions. Then, the court will give an English judgement on the debt.

Typically, if the foreign judgement meets the English court criteria, which is similar for the judgements applied under the aforementioned acts, it’s possible to attain a summary English judgement.

EU Legacy Judgments

When the UK was an EU member, judgements given by the court in the member states were enforced in the English courts under the Brussels I Regulation, resulting in an almost automatic process. The 2007 Lugano Convention between the EU and the Swiss, Icelandic, and Norwegian courts resulted in similar provisions.

However, since Brexit, the Lugano Convention and the Brussels I Regulation have ceased to be applicable in the UK. Yet, the Brussels Regulation still applies to the enforcement of judgements that started before Brexit. The UK has used the same approach for the countries that followed Lugano Convention.

Foreign Judgement Enforcement in the UK

Once you register a foreign judgement in the UK, it is enforced just like a domestic judgement. In fact, even before foreign judgement enforcement in the UK, you can obtain interim measures, such as a freezing injunction, to support the attempted enforcement.

The English courts will recognize a foreign judgement in certain cases, such as if there’s no contract or a breach of contract between the parties. In such instances, it will not be possible to re-litigate the decision on UK soil.