In an address last week to the Insolvency Lawyers Association, Sir Geoffrey Vos, the new Chancellor of the High Court, looked at the future for Insolvency and Business Litigation in London, especially after Brexit.
Whilst acknowledging that Brexit presents a challenge, he said it is one which should not defeat the English Courts. The main issue will be enforcing English judgments within the EU when we are no longer bound by Brussels 1 Regulation. English insolvency proceedings will no longer be automatically recognised in other EU member states under the EU Insolvency Regulation or the revised version which will come into effect in June 2017. The Chancellor reassured insolvency lawyers that these issues could be resolved and that the judiciary and the government are giving them detailed and careful consideration and looking for simple and practical solutions.
As well as speaking of the challenges arising from Brexit, the Chancellor outlined recent initiatives which will continue to keep the insolvency courts of the United Kingdom at the forefront of user-friendliness:
- Specialist Insolvency Registrars have been introduced. They have a vital role in dealing with insolvency litigation. They will shortly be renamed Insolvency and Companies Court Judges.
- Insolvency Express Trials (“IETs”) were introduced in April 2016 and have been a great success. Their objective is to speed up simple litigation, curb costs and avoid the additional burdens of costs budgeting in appropriate cases. In insolvency cases in particular, the case usually turns on evidence, not complex pleadings. Disclosure is usually restricted, because both sides are largely dependent on common documentary sources originating from the company and in the hands of the office-holder. The limits on the procedure are that it relates only to cases that can be disposed of in no more than two days, where each party’s costs will not exceed £75,000 and where the case can be tried by the Registrar. In general terms, there will be just one directions hearing and an expedited hearing date at which judgment will normally be given at once.
- The Insolvency (England and Wales) Rules 2016 will come into effect on 6 April 2017 with the aim of removing unnecessary administrative burdens to reduce the cost and speed up administering insolvency proceedings. The new rules will enable office-holders to send notices to creditors by posting them on websites, will introduce a process of “deemed consent” (except where more than 10% of creditors object) and will abolish the need for final meetings.
Sir Geoffrey Vos claimed the integrity of the judges, the complete absence of corruption, their compliance with the rule of law, the consistently high quality of the judges and the certainty and quality of English law would continue to make English Courts and English law attractive to business people and will maintain and enhance London as the “go to” centre for international dispute resolution – both in the courts and in arbitration.