New efforts should be made to promote the 'unique selling point' of the independent judiciary to ensure that the UK remains a jurisdiction of choice for dispute resolution after Brexit, the head of the Chancery Division has said.
In a lecture to the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh this week, Sir Geoffrey Vos, chancellor of the High Court, said that Brexit will not harm the popularity of London as a centre for international arbitrations. 'The UK will continue as a contracting state to each of the New York and Washington Conventions which govern the enforcement of relevant arbitral awards in both the private and public international law spheres,’ he said.
He noted that the Arbitration Act 1996 is not part of the European acquis of legislation. Post Brexit, 'It is impossible to imagine that there will be any impediment to arbitrators, legal representatives and parties visiting the UK for the purpose of participating in arbitration.’
However, reinforcing recent statements by the lord chief justice, Vos warned that competing jurisdictions are 'throwing a great deal of money' at new commercial and business courts 'with magnificent facilities'. He added: 'If one were a cynic, one might think that some of them were hoping to capitalise on the uncertainties created by Brexit.'
The key to remaining at the leading edge is 'make sure that the independence of our judiciaries is properly understood and recognised amongst commercial parties globally'.
While the UK ranks favourably when it comes to perceptions of judicial corruption, Vos noted that a recent survey suggested that 42% of UK judges did not think their independence was respected by the government and 59% thought the same about the media. 'These figures were amongst the worst in Europe, so they are really something to be concerned about.'
Another way to ensure English law remains as a gold standard is to embrace new technology, Vos said. 'There is much to play for in the accelerating digital age,' he said, citing the importance of ensuring that the code in which blockchain-based contracts are written is governed by UK-based law.
'We need to be pro-active and we need to be prepared to take active steps to improve our offering if the clarion call that Britain is open for business post-Brexit is going to be taken seriously,' he concluded.