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EU urged to re-open a ready-made route to justice post-Brexit

Individuals and small businesses are likely to be among the worst casualties if the EU continues to block UK admission to the Lugano Convention at the end of the Brexit transition on 31 December, a group of influential organisations have warned.

The Law Societies of England and Wales, of Scotland and of Northern Ireland, the City of London Corporation, British Retail Consortium, British Chamber of Commerce EU and Belgium, Which? and Chambers of Ireland have written to the president of the European Council and others in Brussels urging the UK’s readmission to the convention.

“Lugano means that a consumer in Germany who is let down by goods sent from the UK (and vice versa) will be able to seek redress in their local court rather than having to raise multiple legal cases in different jurisdictions – a move out of the reach of all but deepest pockets,” said Law Society of England and Wales president David Greene.

“But it is much more than that: Lugano also provides protection where one of the parties is deemed to be in a weaker position than the other: there are special regimes for employment, insurance and consumer contracts, and maintenance orders.

“It therefore makes dispute resolution more accessible whether you are an employee with a grievance, a consumer let down by a goods or service provider, or a parent trying to enforce a maintenance order.

“It is not about the pre-eminence about one legal jurisdiction over another – it is about ordinary people, with ordinary budgets being able to enforce their rights.”

Lugano already applies between EU and members of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) states but it is also available for non-EU and non-EFTA countries.

“Losing the Lugano framework means reverting to the national laws of each individual country to decide which court has jurisdiction over a legal issue and whether a judgment will be recognised and enforced,” said David Greene.

“It opens the door for people in the UK or EU to try to take advantage of different legal systems to delay justice.

“Of course, the wealthiest corporations and individuals will still be able to enforce their rights but without Lugano access to justice will denied to those with smaller budgets.”

Notes to editors

The UK government has said it wishes to re-sign the agreement during this year.

Now we're asking the EU27 to make a similar commitment recognising this is in the interest of employees, of consumers, of small businesses and of families.

Read the letter to the president of the council (PDF 268 KB)

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