The London Steam-Ship Mutual Insurance Association Ltd v The Kingdom of Spain (M/T PRESTIGE)  EWHC 1247 (Comm) has been in my blog in-tray for a little while: I had thought of using it for exam purposes but have now decided against that.
The case is the appeal against Cook J’s registration of the Spanish judgment in the Prestige disaster. I have reported thrice before on the wider litigation – please use tag ‘Prestige’ in the search box.
References in the judgment are to Brussels I (44/2001), not its successor, Brussels Ia (1215/2012) however the relevant provisions have not materially changed. Application is for recognition and enforcement of the Spanish Judgment to be refused, and the Registration Order to be set aside for one or both of two main reasons, namely: (1) that the Spanish Judgment is irreconcilable with a 2013 Hamblen J order, upheld on Appeal, enforcing the relevant Spanish award (A34(3) BI), and (2) that recognition would entail a manifest breach of English public policy in respect of (a) the rule of res judicata and/or (b) human and fundamental rights (A34(1) BI).
Butcher J referred the first issue to the CJEU on 18 December 2020 – just before the Brexit deadline. I have not been able to obtain a copy of that judgment – the judge merely refers to it in current one. The CJEU reference, now known as Case C-700/20, is quite exciting for anyone interested in the relationship between arbitration and the Brussels regime. Questions referred, are
1) Given the nature of the issues which the national court is required to determine in deciding whether to enter judgment in the terms of an award under Section 66 of the Arbitration Act 1996, is a judgment granted pursuant to that provision capable of constituting a relevant ‘judgment’ of the Member State in which recognition is sought for the purposes of Article 34(3) of EC Regulation No 44/2001?
(2) Given that a judgment entered in the terms of an award, such as a judgment under Section 66 of the Arbitration Act 1996, is a judgment falling outside the material scope of Regulation No 44/2001 by reason of the Article 1(2)(d) arbitration exception, is such a judgment capable of constituting a relevant ‘judgment’ of the Member State in which recognition is sought for the purposes of Article 34(3) of the Regulation?
(3) On the hypothesis that Article 34(3) of Regulation No 44/2001 does not apply, if recognition and enforcement of a judgment of another Member State would be contrary to domestic public policy on the grounds that it would violate the principle of res judicata by reason of a prior domestic arbitration award or a prior judgment entered in the terms of the award granted by the court of the Member State in which recognition is sought, is it permissible to rely on Article 34(1) of Regulation No 44/2001 as a ground of refusing recognition or enforcement or do Articles 34(3) and (4) of the Regulation provide the exhaustive grounds by which res judicata and/or irreconcilability can prevent recognition and enforcement of a Regulation judgment?
These are exciting questions both on the arbitration exception and on the res judicata refusal for recognition and enforcement. They bring into focus the aftermath of CJEU West Tankers in which the status of the High Court confirmation of the English award was also an issue.
The Club’s argument that recognition would be contrary to English public policy because the Spanish Judgment involved a breach of human and fundamental rights was not referred to the CJEU. Discussion here involves ia CJEU Diageo. Suggested breaches, are A 14(5) ICCPR; breach of fundamental rights in the Master being convicted on the basis of new factual findings made by the Supreme Court; inequality of arms; and; A1P1.
There is little point in rehashing the analysis made by Butcher J: conclusion at any rate is that all grounds fail.
That CJEU case is one to look out for!
EU Private International Law, 3rd ed 2021, 2.84 ff, 2.590 ff.