The number of cases heard by the Commercial Court dipped this year after five years of growth, as European litigants look elsewhere to resolve disputes.

An independent annual report shows that 198 cases were heard in London’s commercial courts between April 2019 and March 2020, 9% fewer than last year. Litigants from countries in the European Union made up 13.6% of all litigants, down from 16.5% two years ago. In contrast, the number of litigants from Kazakhstan and Singapore has risen almost threefold since 2018/19, according to litigation consultancy Portland.

UK litigants accounted for 45% of total commercial court users, with high numbers coming from Kazakhstan, Russia, the USA, Cyprus and Singapore. 

Dr Giesela Rühl, professor of law at the University of Jena, said: ‘Of course, it is too early to tell whether the decline in EU27 litigants since 2017 marks the beginning of a trend or whether it is historical coincidence. There are, however, at least two reasons that make it seem plausible that some EU27 litigants may have started to reconsider their decision to litigate in London.

‘First of all, there is the likely effect of Brexit on judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters… Second, some EU27 countries, notably France, Germany and the Netherlands, have recently created new international commercial courts and court chambers to make their civil justice systems more attractive for international commercial litigants.’

The full impact of Covid-19 on the UK’s Commercial Court remains unknown. However, there has been a sharp fall in the number of claims filed in the commercial and chancery courts, dropping from 83 a week at the start of March to 29 by the end of the month. Since then, claims have slowly increased but remain at half their usual weekly number, according to Solomonic, a litigation analystics start-up. 

A spike in litigation is expected once the pandemic has passed.