The UK Government has applied to sign up to the 2007 Lugano Convention, in a move that has received support from Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. The UK is facing dropping out of the Convention at the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020 as it is currently only part of the agreement on account of its EU membership; however, the EU (and Denmark) have yet to declare their support for the application.
The Lugano Convention is an agreement that controls issues on jurisdiction and enforcement of court judgments in civil and commercial cases. It sets out guidance on which courts have the power to rule on cross-border disputes, and allows judgments to be enforced in any of the party states. It reduces the risk of courts in different countries accepting legal action against the same individuals or companies, or on the same issues, at the same time, and supports states seeking to enforce judgments abroad including those relating to family maintenance. By seeking to enter into the agreement on exit day, the UK is hoping for the same status as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland when cooperating with the EU in these areas.
The UK has now passed a new regulation in Parliament which would bring the Convention into UK law independent from the EU on exit day. If the EU or Norway fails to support the UK’s application, the UK may in principle be blocked from joining the Convention and will need to try to enter into equivalent agreements with each of the EU and the other signatories independently. Otherwise, the UK may find it difficult to pursue action against individuals or companies in these countries, and parties seeking justice abroad may face substantially higher costs.
Iceland and Norway have already agreed to enter into discussions with the UK for alternative arrangements or the winding down of cooperation if necessary, and have committed to meeting with the UK six months before exit date to discuss. The EU and Switzerland have not published equivalent statements.
With the future relationship discussions between UK and EU currently difficult because the UK does not wish to discuss certain 'level playing field' provisions including the powers of the ECJ to rule on certain law, the EU's agreement to UK accession to Lugano may be becoming part of a wider negotiation.
The notification of the UK’s application can be found here: https://www.eda.admin.ch/dam/eda/fr/documents/aussenpolitik/voelkerrecht/autres-conventions/Lugano2/200414-LUG_en.pdf