Consequences on the recognition & enforcement of UK judgments in France of a hard Brexit
Time goes by and the prospect of the UK and the EU striking a deal regarding the terms of the “withdrawal agreement” has never been so distant. By contrast, the clock is ticking and the possibility of a “no-deal” hard Brexit is no longer remote.
One of the interests in reaching a withdrawal agreement would be to provide for a clear set of rules, notably with regard to recognition and enforcement of judicial decisions across the channel. Indeed should the UK exit the EU without any agreement, then UK judgments would no longer have direct authority throughout the EU.
This issue has already been raised by some of our clients, concerned that they would have difficulties in accessing justice in the future. For this reason, we thought it may be useful to compare the situation applicable to the recognition and enforcement of EU and non-EU judgments in France, through a comparative approach which highlights the difference between the two regimes.
The enforcement of EU judgments in France
EU law has always facilitated the recognition of EU judicial decisions within its territory, starting with the Brussels convention*. The system has been consistently perfected through decades notably with EC Regulation No. 44/2001**. Lastly it now allows for an automatic and almost unconditional recognition and enforcement throughout the EU, with the Recast Brussels Regulation***.
The applicable EC regulation depends on the date on which legal proceedings leading to the EU judgment were instituted:
If the proceedings leading to the EU judgment were instituted on or after 10 January 2015
For these judgements, the latest Recast Brussels Regulation applies and there is no need for recognition by the Member State in which the EU judgment is to be enforced.
In France, the EU judgment file can be directly transferred to a French bailiff, who can in turn organize seizures, attachments or liens upon the defendant(s) and its assets located anywhere in France****.
This can be arranged in a matter of days, provided the file is complete. A translation into French is recommended for this purpose and the avoidance of any delays or challenges.
If the proceedings leading to the EU judgment were instituted before 10 January 2015
These prior judgments remain subject to EC Regulation No. 44/2001, which provides for a slightly more cumbersome yet practical set of rules regarding their recognition and enforcement.
Under these rules, a declaration of enforceability into the French legal system is needed before moving to enforcement. The request to be granted such declaration has to be filed with the locally-competent Chief Clerk of the Civil Court.
There is no requirement for legal representation, and the verifications to be carried out by the Chief Clerk are purely formal. They do not entail any review of the merits of the case. Indeed there is just a verification that the formalities provided under EC Regulation No. 1215/2012 have been completed by the Claimant.
Very recently we have been faced with a response time of 6 months to obtain this type of declaration, but in our experience this document can be granted quickly (1 to 2 months) and the process is rather effective and inexpensive.
Indeed, it is much quicker than obtaining a full exequatur judgment, which is mandatory for non-EU judgments to be recognized and enforced in France.
* Brussels Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters
** EC regulation No. 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters
*** EC regulation No. 1215/2012 of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters
**** Except for ex-parte judgments.