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Failure to ensure mutual recognition of court judgments in the UK and EU in advance of Brexit will threaten British business and the status of English law, the country’s second most senior judge has warned.
Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the lord chief justice, said he could “discern no basis on which the UK government and the European Union would not wish to provide for such a regime”. Mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments was in “the respective interests” of both London and Brussels, said Lord Thomas, who is the senior judge in England and Wales.
Speaking at the opening in Cardiff of the Business and Property Courts for Wales, Lord Thomas sent a clear message to Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating team that City of London businesses expected them to cut a deal. “It is obvious to any business or lawyer,” the judge said, “that, when entering into a contract which either has a jurisdiction clause for UK jurisdiction or which might involve the necessity for the recognition or enforcement of any judgment in the European Union in the years after March 2019 – on the assumption that a dispute would arise – there must be certainty now.”
Lord Thomas pointed out that clarity was needed urgently “because contracts are being made now which will have effect for years ahead”.
The judge hinted that he was disappointed that the government had not yet clarified the matter. “It is the wish of the entire legal community,” he said, “to continue to assure businesses here and elsewhere in the world that using English law – whether with a UK jurisdiction clause or not – will continue to be the same after March 2019 as it is today. There can be no further delay whatsoever in providing certainty as to that through Her Majesty’s Government making the position clear.”