In arbitration literature, online fora, and textbooks, one sometimes sees reference to ‘the law of the United Kingdom’. This is a misnomer. There are in fact three separate jurisdictions in the UK. Although there are similarities in the laws of those countries and the three jurisdictions will be subject to individual laws passed by Westminster in London, ‘UK law’ does not, per se, exist.
The UK is made up of three different legal systems, comprising England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that the most prominent jurisdiction, and best known on the world stage, is that of England and Wales. With frequent worldwide adoption of London seats, the English High Court as a result has produced a significant body of arbitral case law relating to the English lex arbitri. Further, with that case law being implemented across global common law jurisdictions, this has perhaps resulted in the misconception that English law is ‘UK law’.
In England and Wales and Northern Ireland, the statute applying to any arbitration seated in those two jurisdictions is the Arbitration Act 1996 (“the 1996 Act”). Most practitioners in the field are familiar with its provisions.