Settlement of International Commercial Disputes Post-Brexit, or: United We Stand Taller
Jörn Axel Kämmerer & Hans-Bernd Schäfer (eds), Brexit and the Law. An Interdisciplinary Study, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham/Camberley/Northampton (Forthcoming)
19 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 10, 2020
The European market for the settlement of international commercial disputes is currently dominated by London. According to official statistics, about 80% of the cases brought before the London Commercial Court involve at least one foreign party. And in about 50% of the cases both parties are foreign. Obviously, the London Commercial Court is a popular forum for the settlement of international commercial disputes. And, obviously, it has an international appeal that is – at least in Europe and at least thus far – second to none.
The remaining EU Member States, however, are not sleeping. In fact, over the course of the last years the prospect of Brexit has induced some of them to take measures designed to make their civil justice systems more attractive for international commercial parties: Germany, for example, established two first instance, international commercial chambers at the Regional Courts in Frankfurt and Hamburg in 2018 which offer to conduct proceedings in English. France created an English language chambre internationale at the Paris Court of Appeal in March 2018 which complements and adds a second instance to the English language chamber at the Paris Commercial Court that has been operating since November 2010. The Netherlands inaugurated the English language Netherlands Commercial Court and the Netherlands Commercial Court of Appeal in January 2019. And other countries, notably Belgium and Switzerland are contemplating the establishment of one or more specialized courts to deal with international disputes. Quite clearly: the European market for international commercial litigation is on the move. And while some of the above mentioned chambers and courts were in the making before the UK decided to leave the EU in 2016, there can be little doubt that the prospect of Brexit has fuelled the development.
The interesting question, however, is whether the recent trend to establish international commercial chambers and courts will actually yield any success? Will companies decide to come to the continent – rather than to London – to settle their disputes after Brexit? As a matter of principle, the odds are not too bad: After all the UK will lose its access to the European Judicial Area once Brexit becomes fully effective, namely when the transition period provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement expires. English court proceedings will then no longer benefit from the many European Regulations that ease the settlement of international disputes and judicial cooperation in cross-border civil matters. At least for companies which seek access to the European Judicial Area, Brexit will, therefore, make it less attractive to settle a dispute in London.
The following chapter takes this observation as an occasion to explore the consequences of Brexit for the settlement of international commercial disputes in more detail. It argues that no court in the remaining Member State seems in a position to present itself as a serious alternative to the London Commercial Court. It is, therefore, suggested that the EU should step in and create a European Commercial Court. This Court would provide European companies with an international forum in the European Judicial Area after Brexit and would also attract disputes that would otherwise be settled before other international commercial courts or international arbitration tribunals.
Keywords: Brexit; dispute resolution; international litigation; Judicial cooperation in civil matters; Private International Law; Rome I, Rome II, Brussels Ia; Netherlands Commercial Court; Brussels International Business Court; International Commercial Court; European Commercial Court
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