The Breathing Space Concept note arose out of a meeting on 7 April 2020 hosted by the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, attended by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, Sir David Edward, Sir William Blair, Professor Spyros Maniatis, Professor Malik Dahlan and Keith Ruddock.
It was felt that in the emergency situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic, a universal challenge, a debate should happen as a matter of priority on the necessary contribution of the law to safeguard commercial activity, minimise disruption to supply chains, and ameliorate the adverse effects of a "plethora of defaults", by encouraging a legal environment which is conducive to optimism and a global recovery.
Following the meeting the group called for a 'Breathing Space' in commercial contract disputes arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. Their thinking was outlined in Concept Note 1.
Drafted by Sir William Blair, Professor Eva Lein, Professor Louise Gullifer and Judy Fu, Concept Note 2 looked more closely at the private law response to the pandemic, specifically in the context of contractual disputes, and how existing legal principles may be applied in the context of COVID-19 related disputes, as well as how existing dispute resolution mechanisms may effectively be used to achieve negotiated solutions.
In Concept Note 3, a set of practical guidelines ('BIICL Guidelines') are proposed. Drafted by Helen Dodds, Guy Pendell and Justice Adam Johnson QC, the BIICL Guidelines set out how companies and particularly those who are conscious of Environmental, Social and Governance requirements and their reputations can manage legal disputes responsibly. The BIICL guidelines are deliberately framed so that they can be used in all jurisdictions and legal systems. To this end, they have been translated into several languages.