Small businesses among worst casualties if EU continues to block UK admission, says society’s president
The Law Society of England and Wales has joined a multi-sectoral group of organisations urging the European Union to allow the UK to join the Lugano Convention at the end of the Brexit transition period.
The convention applies to jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters. The convention still applies to the UK during the Brexit transition period but will stop applying at its end.
The Law Society of England and Wales joined the Law Societies of Scotland and of Northern Ireland; the City of London Corporation; the British Retail Consortium; the British Chamber of Commerce EU and Belgium; Which?; and the Chambers of Ireland in writing to Charles Michel, president of the European Council, urging the UK’s readmission to the convention.
According to the Law Society, individuals and small businesses “are likely to be among the worst casualties if the EU continues to block UK admission to the Lugano Convention at the end of the Brexit transition on 31 December.”
“Lugano means that a consumer in Germany who is let down by goods sent from the UK (and vice versa) will be able to seek redress in their local court rather than having to raise multiple legal cases in different jurisdictions – a move out of the reach of all but deepest pockets,” said David Greene, president of the Law Society of England and Wales. “But it is much more than that – Lugano also provides protection where one of the parties is deemed to be in a weaker position than the other – there are special regimes for employment, insurance and consumer contracts, and maintenance orders. It therefore makes dispute resolution more accessible whether you are an employee with a grievance, a consumer let down by a goods or service provider, or a parent trying to enforce a maintenance order.”
According to Greene, the issue is not about the “pre-eminence about one legal jurisdiction over another – it is about ordinary people, with ordinary budgets being able to enforce their rights.”
“Losing the Lugano framework means reverting to the national laws of each individual country to decide which court has jurisdiction over a legal issue and whether a judgment will be recognised and enforced,” he said. “It opens the door for people in the UK or EU to try to take advantage of different legal systems to delay justice. Of course, the wealthiest corporations and individuals will still be able to enforce their rights but without Lugano access to justice will denied to those with smaller budgets.”