On 8 April 2020, the UK formally applied to accede to the Lugano Convention. The one year period recommended for deciding on this application in Article 72(3) of the Convention has thus expired on 8 April 2021, causing harm for judicial cooperation.
However, things seem to start moving. According to a report in the Financial Times, the European Commission wants to give today (12 April 2021) a positive assessment of the British application, despite its earlier reluctance to grant the UK’s application. This change of mood seems to be the result of technical analysis carried out on the consequences of the British accession or non-accession. The article cites an unnamed EU diplomat who emphasises the Union’s awareness of the “practical benefits of having Britain in a co-operation pact that prevented legal disputes from being unnecessarily messy”.
This is a hopeful sign that judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters may continue after Brexit. But let us not rush to quick conclusions. The final decision on the EU’s position lies with the European Parliament and Council under Articles 81(1), (2) and 218(5), (6)(a)(v) TFEU. It will be particularly interesting how Member States will vote in the Council.
Update (13 April 2021) – The European Commission changed its mind and now opposes the UK’s application to join the Convention: see more here.