LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) - Airbus (AIR.PA) and Qatar Airways quarreled in a London court on Friday over French restrictions on transferring evidence overseas, when a high-profile fight over aircraft safety became involved. in a delicate political debate on cross-border jurisdiction.
Qatar Airways is suing French Airbus for $ 1.4 billion for damage to the A350 jet's painted surface and lightning system, saying a design flaw could compromise safety. Airbus admits quality flaws, but insists that jets are safe.
Airbus says it cannot directly deliver thousands of documents Qatar Airways is seeking due to a 1968 law that prevents French companies from handing over sensitive economic details to foreign courts without a special mechanism in place.
The law was originally intended to resist what France saw as intrusive legal demands from the United States. The aircraft manufacturer has asked a British judge for permission to appoint a special commissioner to send the documents to Qatar Airways during the disclosure phase.
Otherwise, the planemaker would be prosecuted in France under the law, widely dubbed France's "blocking law", Airbus told the court on Friday.
“There is nothing entirely new, strange or crazy about what we are proposing,” his lawyer Rupert Allen told a High Court division in an online hearing.
Qatar Airways dismissed the likelihood of litigation, citing the authority of the English courts, which the two sides had chosen to resolve disputes in their airliner contracts.
“There has only been one (French) indictment in 54 years,” said Qatar lawyer Philip Shepherd. "Compliance with a foreign law is not a defense against non-compliance" with the requirements of the English courts, he added.
The jurisdiction controversy arises in the midst of a seething political debate in the UK over the rights of British and foreign courts following Britain's exit from the European Union.
Similar tensions erupted last month when the European Court of Human Rights, which is separated from the EU, blocked Britain's attempt to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda.
At least one of the candidates to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has promised to withdraw from the court.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, who is not in the race for conservative leadership, said Britain will remain in the ECHR but is "legitimate to reject".
Airbus said the proposed data protection commissioner would not review the evidence before passing it on, while Qatar Airways said it doubted the appointee would act as a simple "letterbox".