Classic Sports Car

Brexit and the classic industry

Classics have not been exempt from the headaches and confusion departing the EU has caused


Uncertaint­y has characteri­sed not just the past 12 months but ever since the British public voted to leave the European Union. More than four years later, the lack of clarity remains. That the deal was signed on Christmas Eve, less than a week before Britain began a new year effectivel­y adrift from the Continent for the first time since 1973, only sowed confusion on both sides of the Channel. There has been no time for theory, only for seeing it in practice.

“I phoned the customs helpline to ask what was going on,” explains Dorset-based classic dealer Michael Wise, “and I was told: ‘I’m sorry Mr Wise, I haven’t got a clue.’” The result is that conversati­ons surroundin­g the 1961 Jaguar E-type S1 that has interested a customer in the EU are on hold.

He adds that enquiries from Europe have not yet dropped: “Because it’s not until the deal is done and you’re looking at logistics that it becomes a mess.”

There are known knowns, though. Visiting Europe will not require a visa but for work it will – except France. You’ll need one for each country, which means costs will rack up. Attending business meetings will not require a visa so long as you do not exceed 90 days in the EU within 180. Profession­al goods will require a carnet if they are being used for work.

“Tourism is extremely important to the UK,” says Wayne Scott, director of communicat­ions for the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs. “That doesn’t matter whether you’re going over to do a historic rally or for a holiday in your daily driver. The tour operators are very optimistic and happy. A lot of the people that go on these tours remember what it was like before the UK was in the EU and they did it quite happily.”

A green card from your car insurer is a must, with lead times varying, and not having one could cause problems at borders. Those in Northern Ireland may receive one when renewing.

“It confirms that you are covered with the minimum requiremen­ts of the country you are driving into,” continues Scott. “You always had to let insurers know you were going abroad, anyway. A lot of border controls will want to see a V5; you always needed that with you, too, especially in France. We are not aware of any internatio­nal driving permits that will be required.

“You’ll need a GB sticker instead of relying on an EU flag on your numberplat­e, but France has insisted on a GB sticker for years. Even before Brexit there were subtle difference­s in road laws between EU countries – you’ll remember the great debacle about breathalys­ers in France – perhaps that’s a bit more acute.”

If personal travel is clear-cut, goods are where the confusion lies, whether it’s cars or components, permanentl­y or temporaril­y.

For the average parcel, the process at the Post Office will be simple: a CN22 form for goods of up to £270, otherwise a CN23, and declaratio­ns of what is in the Jiffy bag need to be detailed. Receiving parcels valued at less than £135 won’t require any further payment because VAT will be taken at the point of purchase – a headache for companies rather than consumers.

But as Franco Roselli, managing director of Surrey-based Italian parts specialist Ricambio, points out, delivery firms have been adding a ‘Brexit charge’. “We’re getting varied quotes,” he says. “We use DHL and they’ve chosen to slap £4.50 [€5] on every parcel into and out of the EU via the UK.”

The process itself is not necessaril­y a problem, but daunting for some or simply another obstacle for stretched workforces. “We were prepared for the worst-case scenario,” Roselli says. “We spent a year’s worth of budget in a month, but we still didn’t get all the anticipate­d parts arriving. I have stuff that was stuck in ports over Christmas dribbling through now. Some have been returned to sender because of the deadline – I was told that anything collected before wouldn’t incur charges. But it’s not causing massive problems.

“We’ve had companies say they are not sending stuff to the UK any longer. Possibly they can’t get their head around the paperwork, but it’s actually simple. We export parcels daily around the world – to Japan, America, Australia – and it’s no different, so we’re used to it. It’s commodity codes and export paperwork, which adds a minute or so to booking in an order.”

Some companies had halted deliveries to and from mainland Europe because of mounting processing fees, and delivery charges have rocketed from some firms, while some such as Ricambio had an influx of overseas orders.

“Like all things in bureaucrac­y it gets quicker as you get used to doing it,” Scott says. “There’s a lot of concern [from the clubs], but I don’t think problems have been encountere­d. If you look at where a lot of our parts are sourced they’re not actually from Europe. They are from much further afield, and if not they’re made in the UK.”

One of the biggest hurdles, as Wise illustrate­s, is the movement of cars. Leading historic rally organiser HERO-ERA has been attempting to regroup following the COVID-19 disruption while preparing for Brexit.

“There’s a difference between driving your car over and those that are being transporte­d,” says Tony Jardine, communicat­ions director. “We’re trying to work out what it means for the long-distance events. Some will say they can’t do them because budgets are already tight, but the feedback is that people will find a way. I can’t see any massive warning signs that say we cannot do our multi-country events.”

Worst affected are the haulage firms. EM Rogers Transport, a specialist in classics, is also now a customs agent, according to director Sarah Boyson: “We’re on the frontline in two respects. One thing that has surprised a lot of people is that there’s a lot of paperwork and preparatio­n if a car is going out of the country permanentl­y, whereas previously it could just get on a truck and go. Because of the free trade agreement most hadn’t realised that VAT would be payable, so we’ve had to explain that unfortunat­ely it definitely is. The cost of customs clearance has turned out to be high, too.

“A car coming here that’s under 30 years old will have normal rates of VAT, 20%, or 5% for cars that are over. But it could be variable in different countries. With a valuable modern car there’s going to be high rates of charges that could be prohibitiv­e. Just to move a car, the customs handling fees on the EU side of things are high.”

Expect it to take a day or two to ensure everything is in order to avoid any problems and delays, or even being denied entry. According to Motorsport UK, competitio­n cars for race meetings in Europe will require a carnet, with the premium being either a refundable deposit of 40% of the vehicle’s value or a non-refundable insurance premium to cover that cost.

Sir Greg Knight MP, chair of the

‘No longer can a car slip on to a truck to Europe at late notice: everything needs to be in order in advance to avoid any problems’

All Party Parliament­ary Historic Vehicle Group, has offered his support: “There will inevitably be changes that impact upon historic vehicle owners but this Government says it is committed to keeping red-tape to a minimum. The All Party Group will seek to hold them to this commitment. Further, trade is a two-way street, so we should assume some goodwill on behalf of our former European partners.

“No one has yet raised any issues caused by Brexit which are insurmount­able so far as the historic vehicle movement is concerned. However, if problems do emerge, the Parliament­ary Group will not hesitate to raise the issue with ministers.”

The subject of VAT and import duty has been hanging since before Christmas. A report from financial planner Kreston Reeves made national headlines when it predicted Brexit would damage the investment potential of classics. New VAT rules, introduced on 1 January, mean values will still be affected, with that minimum charge of 5% VAT. Classics are eligible for the preferenti­al rates so long as they are: at least 30 years old; in original state or in historical­ly correct condition; and no longer in production.

Those of less than 30 years old are generally not considered to be classic or collector’s cars, says the government advice. Exceptions can be claimed. “It’s subjective, and it’s ultimately the HMRC that decides whether it is of historical interest or not when it comes through the borders,” admits Colin Laidlaw, director of VAT at Kreston Reeves.

Youngtimer­s in Europe may be less attractive to UK buyers as a result. Cars built in the EU are exempt from import duty, scrapping a potential 10% charge, and the margin scheme has been reintroduc­ed for used cars sold into Northern Ireland, meaning no VAT will be payable. Auction houses are slightly different, but largely covered by the same rules.

Toby Service of Brightwell­s expects British buyers to fill any void left by European bidders: “It will certainly cut down the European buyers for the lowervalue cars,” he admits, “but most of those go to UK bidders anyway.”

Neither Bonhams nor RM Sotheby’s expects its fees to change. According to Bonhams’ group motoring chairman James Knight:

“Bidders in the EU will now actually be able to enjoy a rebate on UK VAT upon proof of export.”

The overriding sense is the need for perseveran­ce. The early problems are being encountere­d at a time when travel is restricted, which in a perverse twist buys time. For many it’s a case of returning to the old days. As Roselli recalls:

“I remember going to Italy with my dad when we were in the common market. We’d go in a lorry, all very exciting for a 10-year-old, and spend half a day in customs. They’d put a wax seal on the lock, we’d drive into France and have a policeman inspect the seal and paperwork. At Dover we’d be checked again. In the EU that all stopped. Now, with everything being electronic, I anticipate­d it would be similar but streamline­d.”

Yet the UK’S strong and at times self-sufficient classic industry offers reassuranc­e, and vehicle clubs may find themselves with a vital part to play. “One of the key talents of classic owners,” concludes Scott, “is their ability to source parts and keep their cars on the road. They’ve got round far more and bigger obstacles than Brexit will throw at them. I don’t think the average owner has a lot to worry about.

“As society changes, with fewer meet-ups in person, car clubs just might be the answer. And if it turns out that there is a problem with importing parts, clubs doing group buys are ideal. If there’s one thing the historic community has it’s resilience, and innovation to keep our cars on the road.”

“One of the key talents of classic owners is their ability to keep cars on the road. They’ve got round bigger obstacles than Brexit”

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 ??  ?? Road laws will need a keen eye over them for smooth travels. Left, clockwise: racers will need a carnet; multi-country events will run, says HERO; changes will be felt most at ports
Road laws will need a keen eye over them for smooth travels. Left, clockwise: racers will need a carnet; multi-country events will run, says HERO; changes will be felt most at ports
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 ??  ?? Clockwise: ERA says it “doesn’t want to lose the adventure”; EM Rogers is at the forefront, with customs and haulage; parts supply may be hit
Clockwise: ERA says it “doesn’t want to lose the adventure”; EM Rogers is at the forefront, with customs and haulage; parts supply may be hit
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