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Six Reasons London is the Perfect Choice for International Arbitration
July 1, 2024

International arbitration is a method of non-court dispute resolution (NCDR) for parties from different countries to resolve their disputes.  

Arbitration is used as an effective means to resolve various cross-border conflicts, including family law issues, maritime law and shipping, international commercial contracts, and investor claims against states. 

The number of parties choosing international arbitration has soared as more global commercial enterprises and high-profile individuals realise the benefits of having a dispute heard by impartial arbitrators in a neutral country.  

Industry estimates suggest that international arbitration has grown by around 26% between 2016 and 2020.  

With parties free to choose the jurisdiction where their dispute is heard, there is increasing competition between countries keen to showcase their various benefits and prove their worth as an effective seat of arbitration.  

London has always been a popular destination for international dispute resolution where a survey in 2021 showed it to be the world’s most popular seat, followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, Paris, and Geneva. 

The English capital’s reputation shows no signs of waning. The changes to the Arbitration Act 1996 introduced in November 2023 under the Arbitration Bill have only entrenched London’s role as a world-leading destination for cross-border dispute resolution.  

The changes introduced by the Arbitration Bill include:  

  • Strengthening the courts’ powers to support emergency arbitration so time-sensitive decisions can be made more easily, such as preserving evidence to avoid bad actors destroying key materials.   
  • Providing more clarity on the law of arbitration.  
  • Simplifying procedures to reduce delays and costs for clients.  
  • Protecting arbitrators from unreasonable lawsuits, for example, if the arbitrator needs to resign from the case with good reason, to ensure they can make impartial decisions. 

In this blog, our specialist Dispute Resolution lawyers provide their top reasons why London remains a great choice as the seat for international arbitration. 

1. System of English common law.

The solid foundations of the English legal system and the wisdom of its case law means that parties are drawn to London as a forum for international arbitration by its long-standing reputation for being experienced and neutral. 

London’s common-law traditions also make it an attractive arbitral hub. Around one-third of the world’s 320 jurisdictions are based on common-law principles where this familiarity makes English law attractive to litigants and arbitration users worldwide. 

In addition, the fact that English is the spoken language in the UK also cements London’s appeal.  Around 400 million people speak English as their first language, making the UK’s justice systems accessible to the citizens of a huge number of other countries. 

 2. Geographical location.

London’s location within the continent of Europe and directly between the time zones of the USA and Asia makes it a natural choice for cross-border disputes. 

The capital also remains one of the world’s largest hubs for corporate headquarters, and any fears that London’s appeal for international businesses might have diminished post-Brexit have been misplaced. 

Brexit may even have made London even more attractive as a jurisdiction for international arbitrations. As part of the EU, English courts were bound by the judgments of the Court of Justice of the EU and could not grant anti-suit injunctions restraining proceedings started in another EU member state in breach of the arbitration agreement between the parties.  

Whilst the EU member states will still not be able to restrain parties from wrongfully commencing proceedings in a member state court, English courts are now free to give effect to the arbitration agreement between the parties and to prevent proceedings being brought (or continued) in any EU member state in breach of such agreement to arbitrate the dispute.   

For more on why London continues to be an attractive seat for international arbitration post-Brexit, click here. 

3. Integrity of the system.

The judiciary in England and Wales is known for its integrity and freedom from corruption.  According to a 2022 survey on judicial independence by the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) nearly all judges in the UK and Ireland were sure that their colleagues were not corrupt.  

Judges from Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden also felt the same. However, in European countries, including Austria, Belgium, France, and Germany, while a small percentage of judges believed that their colleagues did take bribes, 8%–15%, stated they were “not sure”. 

4. Enforcement of awards.

Arbitration awards made in London are directly enforceable under the New York Convention in over 160 jurisdictions, including all the major trading nations. 

5. Quality and experience.

London’s legal system, lawyers, and courts are of the highest quality. The city’s diverse culture and base as an international hub determines that London is home to numerous specialist arbitrators in diverse fields. 

This means awards can be made quickly and urgent hearings requiring an immediate decision are not delayed. 

Parties who choose London as the seat of their international dispute know that an experienced and appropriately qualified arbitrator will hear their case and can make sense of complicated industry-specific evidence. Decisions are delivered that are well-considered and consistent with the law. 

6. Finality.  

Arbitration awards are designed for parties to have a final and binding decision about their dispute, and London arbitral awards offer a limited right of appeal. 

The Arbitration Act 1996 only permits a party to appeal an award if it: 

  • Challenges the tribunal’s substantive jurisdiction to decide the case. 
  • Considers that there has been a serious irregularity in the tribunal’s procedure that gives rise to a substantial injustice. 
  • Challenges a point of law in the award. 

Arbitration Lawyers London

Muscatt Black Graf’s Dispute Resolution team deals with civil and commercial disputes and provides practical and pragmatic legal advice to ensure any disputes are resolved quickly and cost-effectively. 

Our experienced team of Dispute Resolution solicitors will explain exactly what is involved at every stage of the process and advise on the best possible course of action depending on your needs. 

We offer specialist dispute resolution advice in the following areas: 

  • Arbitration. 
  • Commercial/ Contract Disputes. 
  • Property Disputes. 
  • Insolvency. 
  • Probate and Trust Disputes. 

Muscatt Black Graf’s Dispute Resolution department is headed up by partners Yvonne Addy and Andrew Wheldon 

Yvonne’s practice encompasses a broad spectrum including company, commercial, property, construction, employment, matrimonial and probate law. She has previously acted for a foreign state in international arbitration and regularly acts in high value litigation for domestic and international trusts, corporations, and high-net-worth individuals.  

Andrew acts for individuals and corporate clients on a wide range of contentious matters. His practice has a strong commercial property element, covering the full range of disputes arising from the Landlord and Tenant relationship, including renewals under the 1954 Act, restrictive covenants, and Lands Tribunal matters.   

For advice on Dispute Resolution matters, please email Muscatt Black Graf on contact@muscattblackgraf.com. Alternatively, click here to complete our online contact form. 

This blog was prepared on 12 June 2024. It is not intended to be advice and should not be relied upon as such. 

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