Herbies defeats UK, French govts in Eurotunnel arbitration hearing

Herbert Smith scored a historic victory for Eurotunnel (and also law firms) in the first large-scale international arbitration ruling against Western governments.

As well as ruling against the UK and French governments to the tune of £30m, the decision was also the first major international arbitration to be made public in which solicitors, as opposed to barristers, undertook the advocacy.

The five-judge panel, chaired by Matrix Chambers’ James Crawford QC and including Lord Millet, ruled that the two governments were liable for the disruption and security expenses that Eurotunnel suffered due to the security fiasco in 2000, which saw thousands of asylum seekers from the Sangatte hostel invade the cross-Channel tunnel.

Although all five judges came to the same conclusion that Eurotunnel had a right to damages, Millet dissented as far as the UK Government was concerned.

He found that the UK was responsible under the concession agreement for occasional incursion, but not for a serious breakdown of public order.

The claimant instructed 13 lawyers, led by litigation partners Matthew Weiniger and Emmanuelle Cabrol of Herbert Smith, with Essex Court Chambers’ Christopher Greenwood QC and advocat Jean-Pierre Boivin of French firm Cabinet Boivin.

For the UK Government, David Anderson QC of Brick Court Chambers, with Samuel Wordsworth and Jessica Wells of Essex Court, were instructed by the Department for Transport solicitors.

Meanwhile for France, the former chair of the Internat-ional Law Commission of the United Nations Alain Pellet was instructed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ legal division.