With the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972, EU Regulations will cease to be part of UK law. There are three important Regulations of concern to shipping practitioners.
- The Brussels Recast Judgment Regulation 1215/2012
- The Rome I Regulation on choice of law for contracts
- The Rome II Regulation on choice of law i in non contractual matters.
If these are not re-implemented into domestic law, then this we are back to the common law as regards jurisdiction. When suing a defendant domiciled in the UK it would once again become possible to seek to stay proceedings on grounds of forum non conveniens.
As regards choice of law, we would be back to the Contracts (Applicable Law) Act 1990 whose provisions are quite similar to those in Rome I. For tort it would be back to the Private International Law (Miscellaneous Provisions Act) 1995 whose provisions contain significant differences from Rome II.
If losing the three Regulations is regarded as non conveniens then Parliament needs to re-enact them into domestic law. Rome I and Rome II could be re-enacted without the need for any action from the remaining 27 EU Member States, although Parliament may choose to amend parts of the Regulations. Possible candidates for amendment of Rome II would be:(a) clarification that it does not apply to torts on the High Seas and; (b) providing that the applicable law where limitation proceedings are brought before the courts of the UK is that of the UK. Some thought would have to be given as to whether the ECJ should be treated as having any authority as regards interpretation of the domestic legislation which re-enacts the two Regulations.
With the Brussels Recast Judgment Regulation the position is more complex if it is thought to be desirable to maintain a common jurisdiction framework with the remaining EU Member States. They would need to amend the Regulation to include the UK, perhaps with a simple definition clause ‘Member state includes the United Kingdom’ and similar amendment, mutatis mutandis, with references to a ‘non-Member State’. The UK would also have to agree to the authority of the ECJ as regards the domestic legislation reimplementing the Regulation.
An alternative would be for the UK to ratify the 2007 Lugano Convention which tracks the provisions of the 2001 Brussels Regulation (the ‘unrecast’ version). However, this would require the UK first to become a member of the European Free Trade Associaton, or to obtain the agreement of all the Contracting Parties, the European Community and Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
The UK could also ratify the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements 2005 (Hague Convention), which came into force as between the Member States and Mexico on 1 October 2015 ( for intra EU matters the Recast Regulation prevails). The Convention deals with exclusive jurisdiction clauses in favour of a Contracting State and for recognising and enforcing judgments within Contracting States in respect of contracts with such clauses.
In our next blog I shall address some of the shipping related Directives that will cease to have effect following repeal of the European Communities Act 1972.