As the level of uncertainty about the United Kingdom’s post-Brexit legal relationship with the European Union mounts, numerous jurisdictions are vying to take London’s crown as the global centre for international commercial dispute resolution. One of them is Ireland, and there are several reasons why it has a head-start on the competition.
London’s Dispute Resolution Credentials Under Threat?
Currently, London is the venue of choice for litigants attempting to settle cross-border commercial disputes. According to Portland’s annual Commercial Courts Report 2018, 158 cases were heard in the London commercial courts between March 2017 and April 2018, with 69 countries represented in those proceedings.
There are numerous reasons why London has cornered the dispute resolution market. The UK is the EU’s largest common law jurisdiction, a legal system that is favoured by investors the world over for its flexibility, predictability, and perceived fairness.
Another crucial factor is the UK’s membership of the EU. As a party to an EU rule known as the Recast Brussels I Regulation, decisions by designated courts in the UK, including the London commercial courts, are recognisable and enforceable in all other EU member states.
However, the UK is intent on leaving the EU and, as matters stand, the possibility that the UK and the EU will fail to negotiate post-Brexit legal arrangements remains. Such an outcome would therefore have major implications for London’s status as a global dispute resolution centre.
As Portland’s report noted, if the Recast Brussel Regulation is not kept, "potential litigants may look to other European Union courts for relief."Related:
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Dublin To The Fore
Those other EU courts could include those located in Dublin. But the Irish capital faces competition from rival financial centres in the EU for a slice of the dispute resolution business. These are now positioning themselves to challenge London’s supremacy in this field. Paris’s commercial court recently began to accept pleas in English, and, according to Portland’s report, Amsterdam, Brussels and Frankfurt are in the process of establishing English-speaking courts with common law features.
Dublin, however, retains a strong natural advantage over these other jurisdictions — namely that its common law system is well established — and, according to Ireland’s Chief Justice, Frank Clarke, while Brexit will be challenging for Ireland, it also presents opportunities, as Clarke observed in an address to New Yorks' Fordham University:
"The challenges stem from the fact that Ireland will almost certainly have to play a leading role, post-Brexit, as the main common law jurisdiction remaining within the European Union. On the other hand, that very fact provides opportunities for the Irish legal system, including its courts and arbitral tribunals, to act in a significantly expanded way as a location for dispute resolution in international litigation."
As matters stand, nobody can predict with any certainty how Brexit will play out, and the impact it will have on the choices of investors. However, in the event that international litigants start looking for alternative jurisdictions to settle commercial disputes, Ireland is well positioned to receive their business.
As Chief Justice Clarke summarised in his remarks: “In a time of great uncertainty, Ireland can be a safe legal haven.”