Exequatur is an area of law that affects all foreign residents in Spain who are subject to court rulings in their home country. For British citizens, it is yet another aspect that has suffered modifications in the light of Brexit. In this article, we look at exequatur in Spain of UK civil and trade court sentences and explain the process behind it.
What is an exequatur?
It’s an important figure in law for foreign residents in Spain who have court cases in their home country. An exequatur is the process under which Spain recognises a court ruling or sentence made in another country so that it may be enforced in Spain.
Read our guide to double tax residency in Spain
What about exequatur for British court sentences after Brexit?
As you might expect, the process varies depending on when the court proceedings started in the UK. Those that commenced prior to Brexit follow a different process to those that started after 2020.
Civil or trade proceedings initiated in the UK before December 31st, 2020
An exequatur in this case has the simplest procedure of all. Court sentences passed in the UK for civil or trade contentions after the transitional period ended (December 31st, 2020) are subject to the EU regulation known as Brussels I bis.
Under it, those favoured by a UK court ruling may request the execution of the sentence in Spain with no need to initiate a declaration of enforceability beforehand. For example, if the sentence rules that the defendant pay a monetary amount (e.g. compensation or alimony), they are automatically obliged to pay it or face seizure of their assets in Spain.
Need an exequatur? Get in touch with our experts.
Civil or trade proceedings initiated in the UK after December 31st, 2020
Court sentences passed after the transitional period for Brexit (i.e. after December 31st, 2020) are subject to more complicated and onerous process for an exequatur. This is because they are no longer governed by EU legislation, but by Spanish law regulating the recognition and execution of sentences passed in third countries.
The process is as follows:
- The party favoured in the sentence passed in a British court must first request the exquatur in a Spanish court.
- Once you have obtained the exequatur, you must initiate enforcement procedures and the subsequent measures (e.g. an embargo on an asset) must be adopted according to Spanish legislation.
Do I have to use Spanish legislation for the exequatur?
No, you don’t for an exequatur in Spain of UK civil and trade court sentences if the sentence recognises an alternative forum. This is because the UK ratified the Hague Convention on Choice of Forum Agreement and applied it from January 1st, 2021.
As a result, you chose the right to an alternative forum for your court proceedings in the UK, the rules of the Agreement apply.
This basically means that you will also need an exequatur procedure before any process to execute the sentence can take place.
What are the consequences of Brexit on exequaturs in Spain of UK court rulings?
As this article has illustrated, sentences passed by British courts cannot take advantage of the automatic EU exequatur process unless proceedings began before the end of 2020. British citizens therefore face longer and more expensive procedures to obtain an exequatur.
Could this change in the future?
Yes, it could if the UK decides to adopt the Lugano Convention. This agreement governs exequatur between the EU and EEA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and allows a quick and simple procedure, similar to the one in place within the EU.
How can I get advice about applying a UK court sentence in Spain?
Contact our friendly expert team who have been defending the rights of foreign nationals in Spain since 2006. Get in touch for a free no-obligation consultation.