The Lugano Convention is a 2007 agreement which sets out which country’s courts can hear cross-border disputes and decides which decisions are enforced. It also works to ensure that judgements and decisions are enforced across borders of member states.
Now no longer a member of the European Union, the UK’s membership in the agreement is lapsed and the European Commission have dealt a large blow to any attempt to join.
In a non-binding recommendation, the commission have stated that the EU should block any approach from the UK to join the Convention. The move comes as a devastating setback for British lawmakers and lawyers, who claim that it will greatly impede judicial cooperation across Europe.
While the decision whether or not to allow UK accession to the Convention lies with the European Council, any backing by the commission would have been very significant.
Because the Convention is an international treaty signed on behalf of EU member states, as well as other select countries, the UK have to apply to accede into the agreement, with all member states voting on the decision.
The commission’s justification for their stance is that the Lugano Convention is a “flanking measure of the internal market and related to the EU-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) / European Economic Area context.” It claims that the UK is a “third country without a special link to the internal market”. Because of this, bringing the UK into the convention would be to set a new precedent and they don’t believe that the EU should depart from its general approach to the Convention, giving the UK perceived special treatment.
The campaign to re-join is still ongoing, with representatives from the legal sector arguing that the UK’s inclusion benefits all involved. It provides protections for parties deemed to be in a weaker position to the other in legal disputes and makes litigation more accessible across Europe.
While the EFTA have already stated that they are willing to support the UK’s application, UK lawyers continue to hope that the EU will vote to support the nation’s application, for the benefit of all nations involved.