Golden jubilee of uniform sales law in the United Kingdom
It is with great joy that we remind the international sales law community of the fact that 50 years ago today, on 18 August 1972, uniform rules of law for international sales contracts entered into force in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The relevant provisions are those of the Uniform Laws on International Sales Act 1967, which still have the force of law in the United Kingdom today.
Of course, the Uniform Laws on International Sales Act 1967 does not implement the 1980 Sales Convention (CISG) in the United Kingdom – the UK, as is well known, remains a CISG Non-Contracting State – but the provisions of the CISG's two predecessor instruments, the 1964 Convention relating to a Uniform Law on the International Sale of Goods (ULIS) and the 1964 Convention relating to a Uniform Law on the Formation of Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (ULF), both drafted under the auspices of UNIDROIT and adopted at The Hague on 1 July 1964. Accordingly, UNIDROIT continues to list the United Kingdom as one of the two remaining Contracting States of these Conventions.
In UK commercial practice and court practice, the Uniform Laws on International Sales Act 1967 never gained any traction; in fact, it appears that there are no published court decisions at all that have applied this Act (although it has occasionally been cited in passing, as in Butler Machine Tool Co Ltd. v Ex-Cell-O Corp (England) Ltd.,  EWCA Civ 9). The reason arguably lies in Article 1(3) of the Uniform Laws on International Sales Act 1967, which reads:
"While an Order of Her Majesty in Council is in force declaring that a declaration by the United Kingdom under Article V of the First Convention (application only by choice of parties) has been made and not withdrawn the Uniform Law on Sales shall apply to a contract of sale only if it has been chosen by the parties to the contract as the law of the contract." (emphasis added)
As such contractual choices of the 1964 Uniform Law are very uncommon in practice (although express contractual choices of the CISG do not infrequently occur today), the uniform sales has remained a dead letter in the United Kingdom.