Impact of Brexit on the Lugano Convention

The text below provides a summary of the impact of Brexit on the Lugano Convention. It explains the Federal Office of Justice’s understanding of the impact Brexit will have on pending civil cases and on the recognition and enforceability of legal decisions. Courts and other authorities are not obliged to consider the FOJ’s legal assessment.

Transition period

If the United Kingdom leaves the EU having agreed a withdrawal deal (agreement on a transition period), then the Lugano Convention will continue to apply to the UK during the transition period, and the UK will continue to be treated as a state bound by the Convention until the end of this period. This follows from the withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK.

For parties in Switzerland this means that during the transition period, the Lugano Convention will continue to regulate jurisdiction and the recognition and enforceability of decisions.

Possibility of rejoining the Lugano Convention

Once it has left the EU, the UK can at any time apply to rejoin the Lugano Convention as a contracting party. The parties to the Lugano Convention (Denmark, EU, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland) would have to agree. Switzerland welcomes the intent of the UK to accede to the Lugano Convention and will support a request for accession from the UK.

Future relationship

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, or if the UK does not rejoin the Lugano Convention after the end of the transition period, the Lugano Convention will no longer apply to the UK.

From this point onwards, the jurisdiction, recognition and enforceability of decisions in relations between Switzerland and the United Kingdom will again be governed by national law, with the exception of any treaties in force in both states, such as the 1973 Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations.

The legal situation under national law in Switzerland and in the UK can be summarised as follows:

  • ­In Switzerland, jurisdiction is governed by the Federal Act on Private International Law (PILA), and in the United Kingdom by common law rules.
  • ­For proceedings initiated under the Lugano Convention which are still ongoing when the UK leaves the EU, the courts and authorities involved shall remain competent, even if they would no longer have jurisdiction under national law. This results from the general principles of civil procedural law (droits acquis, prohibition of retrospective legislation and legal certainty requirement), and from art. 63 of the Lugano Convention and art. 197 PILA.
  • The recognition and declaration of enforceability of judgments made before the withdrawal date shall continue to be governed by the Lugano Convention even after the date of withdrawal. This follows from the general principles of civil procedural law mentioned above. The same must also apply to judgments pronounced after the date of withdrawal if the underlying proceedings began before the date of withdrawal.

Last modification 20.05.2020

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