English law: the platform for international business

English law: the platform for international business

While the UK embraces new global trade agreements, we should not forget the business platform that facilitates these and which we in the UK have shared with the world for centuries – the English law itself.

English law, through its adaptability and integrity, provides the infrastructure for the trade, financial and commercial contracts on which international business relies. Its common use lowers transaction costs and provides network effect benefits for international transactions. Its many advantages create significant economic value, both for the UK and more widely as a fundamental platform for international business, as shown in the recent report by Oxera, commissioned by a group of major industry stakeholders, LegalUK.

Contracting under English law provides clarity, certainty, predictability, and flexibility for all parties. When legal disputes occur, and English law needs to be interpreted and adjudicated on, this can be done from the Commercial Court in London, but also from other access points all over the world. 

It is more straightforward than ever for international businesses to have their English law cases decided in the Commercial Court in London, particularly as it moves to deploying remote hearings as part of its offer. This year, 40% of litigants in the London Commercial Courts were international, and while this is a reduction from last year it remains a significant number.  

A traditional alternative is international arbitration. A large proportion of international arbitrations are decided under English law. Businesses can use UK arbitration institutions such as the LCIA and the LMAA, or those with branches in the UK such as the ICC and can now easily do so online and remotely from their home locations. In fact, arbitrations can be legally based, and hearings can take place anywhere that works for the parties. In the Singapore and Hong Kong International Arbitration Centres, English law is the second most chosen law of arbitrations managed by them.

A newer alternative is to use one of the international commercial courts established abroad with English law as their legal basis (such as the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts) or which adopt English law wholesale (the Abu Dhabi Global Markets Court), or which will hear cases governed by a range of foreign laws (the Singapore International Commercial Court).

International businesses should be alert to the benefits of the seamless provision of English law around the world. We see from the readiness of other countries to take on the administration of English law governed cases, from the Far East to the Gulf that while the Commercial Court remains the premier venue for hearing English law claims it is not the only one. International businesses now have a number of options enabling them to enjoy the significant benefits of English law from the comfort of their own locations.

This contribution is taken from Commercial Courts Report 2022, produced by Portland’s specialist Litigation and Disputes practice. Sign up to download the report here.

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