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Friday, 24 June 2016

BREXIT and a British Stamp Dealer

This is not a good day for me.

I am a stamp dealer based in England paying United Kingdom taxes on my business profits. But maybe half of those profits derive directly from both buying and selling within the European Union. My stock is acquired mainly in Finland and Germany with some purchases from non-EU Switzerland. Those Swiss purchases tell me what life outside the EU will be like in future. A parcel which it takes Swiss customs 30 minutes to process (you can see this on the Tracking Data) takes the UK's Border Authorities who deal with it at least two weeks. They have to look inside, write you a letter, make you sign a form which tests whether what you say is in the parcel corresponds to what the paperwork on the parcel says is in the parcel etc etc. In other words, they behave as if trading with foreigners is inherently suspicious. At the end of it all, you are charged Customs Duties. With the UK outside the the EU they will be able to delay all the parcels, just as they did before the Free Movement of goods within the EU was fully established. When I first started business in the early 1990s, I bought from a collector in the Netherlands. Every packet and even every letter he sent me was opened by Customs officials whose Rule Book told them that Netherlands = Marijuana. You get fed up with this kind of thing. And the paperwork wastes your time.

As for my sales, I sell in auction in Finland and Germany and I have private clients in several EU countries - more in the past than now when I am semi-retired. It's easy.You put things in the post and there is no Customs declaration to fill out. You take payment in euros - in my case, a German bank account is all I need thanks to the Single European Payments Area. It's beautifully simple and the UK tax authorities benefit. Now I am being given an additional reason to think about retiring.

Within the United Kingdom, I sell at stamp exhibitions and small fairs and my clients are for the most part buying goods imported from other EU countries.  Fluctuations in exchange rates make pricing a bit difficult - I would have voted at the time for the UK to join the eurozone - but apart from that the free movement of goods works well for me and for them.

The free movement of people includes my movements to auctions and stamp shows in Europe. I did more in the past and am sorry to have had to reduce my activities. Now I will soon have a reason to reduce them further. It's bad enough already trying to get out of this country or back into it at Calais. It can only get worse. I remember how when I first travelled to the Czech Republic the border wasn't yet open and queues of lorries,many kilometers long, waited at the border checkpoint. That was also before the motorway from Germany up to the border was built. In France, of course, there was always bureaucratic regulation and I always found the paperwork for the Paris Salon d'Automne ludicrous. It was like checking into a hotel in the bad old days when you had to surrender your passport and you felt that a phone call would be made to the Prefecture or its local equivalent. Perhaps it still is like that in France.

Anyway, a bad day. And even worse day I guess for the organisers of the LONDON 2020 international stamp exhibition. I pay my next tax bill on 31 July. I will think hard then about whether to go on working, now that my fellow citizens have decided to make it more difficult.


A friend in Germany offers me comfort:

"Nichts wird so heiƟ gegessen wie es gekocht wird!"

1 comment:

  1. Hear, hear.... If it is of any comfort, the situation is not much rosier on from the perspective of EU-based collector. Buying stuff from UK has been dead easy (despite different currency), what lies ahead (customs, banking fees etc you have to deal when doing business outside EU) scares the crap out of me. It will simple become 'not worth it'.

    Possibly the only good thing is that this is said to take from few years up to decade to complete. Hopefully the politicians will have a change of heart in this time, and organize a re-vote.