The UK is guilty of ‘wishful thinking’ in believing Brexit will not threaten London’s pole position in cross-border dispute resolution.

So claims Jean Messinesi, president of the Paris Commercial Court, one of a clutch of continental European forums aiming to erode their London counterpart’s market dominance.

In a letter to the Gazette published today, Messinesi claims Brexiters ‘underplay or seek to ignore’ the fact that from next March, judgments by the London Commercial Court will no longer enjoy automatic enforceability in EU member states. Multinationals will need to seek exequatur [sovereign recognition] in each of these countries, a strong incentive to elect a jurisdiction elsewhere, he stresses.

So far the City has appeared unfazed as Paris, together with Germany and the Netherlands, have moved to set up business courts that take account of common law and publish judgments in English. But Messinesi says the alleged superiority of the common law and the reputation of English judges will not be enough on their own to maintain London’s pre-eminence. Hopes that the UK will negotiate unilateral agreements with EU states are deluded, he adds.

‘The truth, as noted by former Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, is that the UK’s justice system has become unaffordable to most, except Russian oligarchs and Middle East sheikhs, he argues. ‘In comparison, across the board the cost of access to European courts is much more reasonable.’ 

The Paris court charges litigants a maximum fee of €100, a conference to promote the forum in London heard earlier this year.