Acceding to the Hague Choice of Court Convention is one of the unilateral steps the United Kingdom is planning to take to partially close the gap that will open in the field of judicial cooperation when the Brussels Regulation falls away upon Brexit.
The United Kingdom currently is a party to the Choice of Court Convention only by virtue of its membership in the European Union. It had previously declared its accession on 28 December 2018. Subsequently it had declared that its accession should be treated as suspended until Brexit became effective. The declarations regarding the effective date were updated, as the date kept shifting in line with the various Article 50 extensions agreed between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
Now, in the light of the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, in a formal declaration dated 31 January 2020 to the Netherlands Foreign Ministry as the Depositary, the United Kingdom has withdrawn its instrument of accession. However, this withdrawal is only to be viewed as a technicality. The declaration stresses that “the United Kingdom attaches importance to the seamless continuity of the application of the Agreement to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom therefore intends to deposit a new instrument of accession at the appropriate time prior to the termination of the transition period.”
Here is the declaration in full:
“Her Britannic Majesty’s Embassy presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and has the honour to refer to the instrument of accession (the “Instrument of Accession”), which it deposited alongside a Note Verbale (the “Note Verbale”) on 28 December 2018, and declarations which it deposited on 28 March 2019, 12 April 2019 and 30 October 2019 (“Declarations”), concerning the accession by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the “United Kingdom”) to the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements of 30 June 2005 (the “Agreement”).
Since the deposit of the Instrument of Accession, the United Kingdom and the European Union have signed, ratified and approved a Withdrawal Agreement, which will enter into force on 1 February 2020 (the “Withdrawal Agreement”). The Withdrawal Agreement includes provisions for a transition period to start on the date the Withdrawal Agreement enters into force and end on 31 December 2020 (the “transition period”). In accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, during the transition period, European Union law, including the Agreement, will continue to be applicable to and in the United Kingdom.
In accordance with the arrangements proposed in the Note Verbale and Declarations, the Government of the United Kingdom is therefore writing to notify the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands of its withdrawal of the Instrument of Accession, Note Verbale and Declarations.
The United Kingdom attaches importance to the seamless continuity of the application of the Agreement to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom therefore intends to deposit a new instrument of accession at the appropriate time prior to the termination of the transition period.
Her Britannic Majesty’s Embassy avails itself of the opportunity to renew to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Netherlands the assurances of its highest consideration.”