Don’t hold out hope for future UK Lugano accession

It is old news that the UK’s bid to join the Lugano Convention has stalled and been kicked into the political long grass. We previously blogged about the reasons given by the EU Commission for opposing UK Lugano Convention membership.

Specifically:

For the European Union, the Lugano Convention is a flanking measure of the internal market and relates to the EU-EFTA/EEA context. In relation to all other third countries the consistent policy of the European Union is to promote cooperation within the framework of the multilateral Hague Conventions. The United Kingdom is a third country without a special link to the internal market. Therefore, there is no reason for the European Union to depart from its general approach in relation to the United Kingdom.

At the time, we also speculated about whether there may in fact have been different motivations behind the opposition, in particular based on the following comment:

Stakeholders concerned, and in particular practitioners engaged in cross-border contractual matters involving the European Union, should take this into account when making a choice of international jurisdiction.

As we settle into the post-Brownlie era under the CPR service gateways, it is interesting to now look back at the comments of Éric Dupond-Moretti, French Minister of Justice, on the consequences for judicial cooperation in France of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

His comments, originally made in February 2021 but recently recirculated online, go some way to confirming the suspicion that there may have been more to refusal of UK membership than the Commission’s stated reasons. The comments suggest opposition to UK membership of a deeper and more fundamental kind, which will likely prove difficult to overcome in the near future without skilled and targeted diplomacy.

Mr Dupond-Moretti was reporting to the Commission des lois constitutionnelles, de la législation et de l’administration générale de la République.

He said (in French and according to Google Translate):

More generally, Brexit is an opportunity to strengthen the attractiveness of the legal center of Paris and we are very vigilant in this regard. The United Kingdom wishes to maintain its international influence in this area, but we have advantages that must now be highlighted. The British have indicated their intention to accede to the Lugano Convention on jurisdiction and the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters; we are against it. The recognition of court decisions gives member countries of the European Union an additional attraction that we should take advantage of.

And later:

The judicial center of Paris is a place of legal excellence because of the number and quality of its professionals. London is also a major legal center, as everyone knows. But the European Union has the considerable advantage that decisions rendered in one of its member countries are enforceable throughout Europe. This is no longer the case for decisions handed down by British courts, and if France is opposed to the United Kingdom’s accession to the Lugano Convention, it is because, when one leaves the Union , we must draw the consequences. We are a member, and we want to have the benefits.

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