On 12 January 2024, the UK government signed the 2019 Hague Convention (on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters), as we noted in this article at the time.

Formal ratification is required before the Convention can come into force. The latest materials from the Civil Procedure Rule Committee provide an indication of the likely timing of that and are addressed in the body of this article.

First, is paragraph 28 of the CPRC’s December 2023 minutes, which records that the MoJ is “planning to achieve implementation and ratification [of the 2019 Convention] as soon as possible, if feasible by the end of June 2024”, an aim described by paragraph 30 as “a challenging timetable.”

Second is to note that the CPRC website is hosting a new consultation paper, with a short response period ending on 13 March 2024, about the technical rule changes that will be required in England & Wales. It is not yet clear what approaches will be adopted in Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Paragraph 2 of the consultation paper states that: “Later this year, a statutory instrument (SI) will be laid in the UK Parliament to amend the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 (the 1982 Act).” Given that the 1982 Act extends to all three UK jurisdictions, this suggests that rule changes in Scotland and Northern Ireland will also be required.

The proposal (for England & Wales, at least) in the CPRC consultation is that there will be a registration process for judgments for which recognition and enforcement under Hague 2019 is being sought. This is unlikely to be controversial, with paragraph 5 of the consultation stating that “The process for registration is intended to be as straightforward as possible and broadly consistent with the registration models for existing regimes in force UK wide for the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments (for example Hague 2005).”

Paragraph 30 of the December minutes notes that the necessary amendments to the rules to allow for this registration process will be made by the CPRC, but “via a standalone SI (rather than in one of the usual CPR amending SI), in recognition of the ambitious implementation timetable (which does not align with the CPR’s mainstream common commencement cycles).” This suggests that the intention is that the SI required for the Hague 2019 rule changes should be implemented earlier than the next general CPR update in October 2024. However, the adjectives “challenging” and “ambitious” could, it is suggested, be understood as euphemisms for ‘unrealistic’, so some slippage may be expected.

It would therefore appear that there are two relevant SIs to expect in the coming months. One will amend the 1982 Act to include appropriate references to the 2019 Convention, the other will introduce the necessary registration process into the CPR.

Hague 2019 provides, in effect, for a twelve-month ‘lead’ period after ratification before it will be in force between the contracting states. It further provides that recognition and enforcement of judgments via the Convention applies only to matters in which “proceedings were instituted” after the Convention is in force between the state of origin and the receiving state: i.e. after the expiry of this twelve-month lead period.

Assuming (i) that “instituted” has the same meaning as “issued” and (ii) that the MoJ is able to meet its “ambitious implementation timetable” of “the end of June 2024”, these transitional provisions would mean that judgments in claims issued in England & Wales after (say) 1 July 2025 would be eligible for recognition and enforcement via the mechanisms set out in Hague 2019.

Given the typical periods between issuing proceedings and obtaining judgment, it would appear to follow that the use of the Convention mechanisms is unlikely to be experienced in practice before early 2026. [That said, it should be noted that the Convention specifically provides that formal settlements may, in addition to judgments, be enforced under its terms.]