Brexit and the small UK wargames business

Whatever your views on the forthcoming EU referendum, whether you’re in favour or remaining in the EU or of leaving (Brexit), there are some quite simple repercussions of Brexit for the small UK wargames business – and it’s all to do with tax and tax collection.

There are two types of small UK wargames business: those that are not registered for value added tax (VAT), and those that are registered for VAT. As is apparent on wargames forums, the difference between a VAT-registered business and a non-registered business is not widely understood. The ones that are registered for VAT are in general larger: UK businesses must register for VAT if their annual turnover is more than £83,000. The consequence of that is that a VAT-registered wargames business must charge 20% VAT on toy soldiers for sales within the EU.

Currently, the free trade arrangement within the EU allows both types of small wargames business to trade without further tax or tax collection charges being imposed for selling into another country. For non-VAT businesses there is simply no tax to collect; for VAT-registered businesses, tax is charged in the UK at 20% and is collected on behalf of HMRC by the business.

Brexit would change that by bringing in a tax frontier simply for VAT. This is regardless of any trade agreements and ability to set extra tariffs and duties on products that independence from the EU might bring for Brexit UK. It will happen simply because VAT exists across the EU, and VAT in the EU will not go away just because the UK leaves.

Brexit UK may well remain part of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), like Norway, but Norway provides the prime example of how VAT would work in the UK for any small wargames business trading with the rest of the EU.

Currently, any VAT-registered wargames business selling to Norway removes the 20% UK VAT from its prices and dispatches an order with a customs declaration about order value on the front of the package. Depending on the value of the order, Norway may charge VAT at 25% plus a tax collection charge of NOK 140 (just under £12). VAT kicks in on orders of NOK 350 (about £29.70) for orders sent by post, and VAT and the tax collection charge add 39% to the cost of an order of that size (source:

A £29.70 ex-tax order is equivalent to an order value of £35.64 inc VAT in the UK; however, with Norwegian VAT and tax collection fees it becomes equivalent to £41.34, or £5.70 more expensive compared with the same order to a UK customer.

For a non-VAT-registered UK business, the comparative price is worse. There is no tax to deduct on export to Norway, so the apparent price hike is from £29.70 to £41.34, a difference of £11.64. The same situation happens in the UK, by the way: UK wargamers importing from the USA, for example, should find that Royal Mail charges £8 for collecting import VAT, on an order value threshold of just £15.

Although the same value of goods is bought from the non-VAT-registered UK business as from the VAT-registered business, the apparent tax hike for the order from the non-registered business looks much worse to the Norwegian customer.

Post-Brexit, how the UK trades with EU countries will work exactly the same way as trade with Norway at present. All products from wargames businesses in the UK will appear more expensive not necessarily because of a major difference in the VAT rate – many major EU countries have a VAT rate of 19% to 22%, similar to the UK’s 20% – but because of the tax collection fee, once an order passes the low import tax threshold.

Of course, it is possible to send a parcel to Norway without it attracting tax: it simply has to be below the import tax threshold. What this does in practice is to limit the size of orders from Norway, to the extent that to be safe almost no wargamer in Norway orders more than £22 ex-tax of goods at a time, according to Fighting 15s’ experience at least. For any small wargames business that trades extensively with EU countries, the implication of having most orders to those countries reduced to values that slip under the typical import tax collection threshold of 15 to 22 euros is pretty horrifying.

The collection charge, of course, dilutes in effect as orders get bigger. On an order of NOK 1,000 (about £85 ex-tax of goods from a VAT-registered UK business, or £85 of zero-tax goods from a non-registered business), Norway’s import tax and duty come to only 28%, which doesn’t look much in percentage terms but gives the customer a £33 import tax bill on delivery, which can be off-putting. It still makes the equivalent order from a non-VAT-registered UK wargames business £33 more expensive.

Norway, of course, isn’t a major market for wargames figures. The effect of its VAT tax-frontier within the free-trade zone of the EU reduces order sizes from customers based there. The EU-wide market for wargames businesses, however, is much bigger.

Across the EU, import tax thresholds are low, typically 15 to 22 euros (additional duty based on the type of goods, by the way, typically doesn’t come in until an order reaches 150 euros). With import tax collection fees for VAT ramping up the cost of orders above these low values to EU countries, any UK wargames business – VAT-registered or not – that currently sells to the EU will be affected post Brexit. And non-VAT-registered UK wargames businesses will be worse off than VAT-registered ones because of the greater apparent price hike of import tax and tax collection fees.

Whether post-Brexit UK can set its own tax it won’t matter. The rest of the EU’s existing VAT system and import tax charges will simply come into effect, even for associated countries within the European Free Trade Area, and that’s what will penalise the ability of the small UK wargames business to sell to EU countries if Brexit comes to pass.


Notes: Norway’s charges can be calculated at for anyone who wants to check.


The curious world of food intolerance

So, here I am, 55 and a long way from vowing never to eat another tomato (and a long way from the last post on this blog). It isn’t just tomatoes, and it appears a lot more is causing my eczema than I thought.

One thing I did sort out was talking to my mother about foods she had craved when she was pregnant with me. They turned out to be tomatoes and oranges. So since 2008 I have broadened what I eliminate from or reduce in my diet and worked out what the following foods do.

Nightshades – tomatoes, peppers, chillis, aubergines and potatoes. All members of this plant family cause, within three to four days of eating, small red spots to appear under the surface of my skin at extremities – fingers and feet, particular just above the ankles. These reach the surface causing broken skin and lots of flakiness. The condition is eased by topical steroids, now right up to Dermovate in strength – it’s the weapon of last resort – in order to have any effect. Tomato and potato plants, by the way, make me itch if I touch them. Peeling a potato is a task that now requires gloves, although it never used to be. With corn starch being expensive, I have to watch ingredients for thickening agents and stock cubes, as potato starch is used as a cheaper substitute.

Citrus – lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit and so on. All cause my palms to split, quite painfully with deep fissures, and flake. Nothing seems to help this except not eating citrus. Citric acid gets shoved into all sorts of drinks and appears to be the culprit. I had a bad post-Ribena episode.

Dairy – milk, cheese and so on, whether cow, goat or sheep. Causes my palms to flake and crack, and digestive problems (wind and internal discomfort). I’ve always hated milk, to the point of vomiting, but loved cheese. Lactose-free milk or cheese makes no difference. Bio yoghurt, however, is survivable but I hate the smell – I’ve moved to soya yoghurts.

Onions. The most recent discovery – they cause terrible digestive problems (wind) but don’t appear to have any effect on my skin. I’ve just had an onion-free week and feel much better for it. Was worried about IBS up to this week, but this experiment has eased my mind considerably. I have to explore whether leeks and garlic have a similar effect. I explored this because despite cutting out dairy, digestive issues were getting worse.

I will say that these are intolerances, not allergies. I can eat any of the above without causing alarm except, the sure knowledge, that three to four days later they will have an effect (dairy and onions have a more immediate digestive effect, i.e. within 24 hours). Some foods, such as citrus, take several days of eating to have their effect, so I can risk, for example, a little mixed peel in cake, or lemon juice on fish, provided that I don’t do it repeatedly over a short period. I can risk a pizza, particularly a cheese-free one, once in a while; using a substitute for tomato sauce based on butternut squash, I can enjoy them more often.

I also make sure that if I eliminate anything from my diet as an experiment that I am sure to be responsible and take in the equivalent vitamins and minerals from other food. No one wants scurvy from lack of vitamin C, or brittle bones because of lack of calcium. So, to eliminate milk, for example, I use soya milk or coconut milk that has been fortified with calcium and such – not organic soya, which simply hasn’t got the replacement nutrients (I use Alpro, which isn’t GMO – cheap, fortified soya is usually GMO). I don’t use or cook with nut products (such as nut milks) because my wife is severely allergic to them.

Being careful with the above has greatly reduced my use of topical steroids: a tube of Dermovate typically now lasts 10 weeks instead of four and is used for firefighting outbreaks, not as a matter of routine, when I have been stupid about my diet. Emollient is now usually enough.

More experimentation, and some substitute recipes to follow.

Mud and The Members: Isle of Wight Festival 2010

The Members, IW Festival 2010

No, not some ghastly combination on the Festival line-up this year, but the promise of glorious squelchy goo and the sounds of punk rock from 30 years ago.

Gentle rain softened the fields underfoot for my first experience of the festival campsite area. I’m not camping, but Jimjams is, so bought camping tickets. I had never realized quite how much the festival extended beyond the main arena and Strawberry Fields. It was already sticky and churned up by the time I arrived early on Thursday evening, just about in time for R U Experienced in the Big Top. I have a dim view of tribute bands, but until we all join the choir invisibule, hearing Jimi Hendrix in person isn’t an option, so the next best option other than what are now quite stale recordings is to hear someone else giving it a crack. Not a bad rendition, all things said, with some talented guitar, if not bordering on the genius of the original. Look forward to them later this year for the 40th anniversary.

On to the Kashmir Cafe, home of real beer at the festival. I only discovered this late last festival: a cash bar selling Yates’s beer from the cask, plus an alternative music set from the rest of the festival of a slightly folky or ethnic bent. So, main advantage: being able to buy decent drinkable beer without queuing for tokens that only buy quite appalling piss from Carling. Sat reading M A R Barker’s Man of Gold, drinking beer and eating liquorice from the St Valentine’s liquorice company, until Second Time Around had set up and started, Pleasant enough but ultimately I was heading for the Big Top for The Members and didn’t hang around for more than three numbers.

The Members are old. A 30-year-old punk rock band gone to greyness, baldness – anyone of a certain age who wears a hat indoors has, as it were, nothing to hide – and in one notable case fatness. Like having Danny Devito playing punk (observational credit: CJ Andrews). But fantastic. Close your eyes and the voices were the same: a magical trip back in time. Open them and it was scary old-age presence, with the threat of impending zimmer frames. Stayed for the whole set, which included International Financial Crisis (reworking of Offshore Banking Business), Working Girl (I still have the 7in vinyl single) and a memorable Sound of the Suburbs. Missed them? Well you can catch them again on the acoustic stage tonight (Friday): great blend of reggae beats and punk sound.

Squeeze, following on in the Big Top, were stale by comparison. They sounded old. Kicking off with Up the Junction was a mistake for there wasn’t much to look forward to after that, and after three numbers I drifted off back across the slightly drier fields to the trusty steed, padlocked to a farm fence, for a short ride back to base.

Torrential rain overnight will have softened the ground even more, so today (Friday) will be wellies day: the outlook for Saturday and Sunday is “scorchio”, so we’ll be caked in dry earth by the time Paul McCartney closes the show.

Festival album:

Wind in the Wellows, part II

Bless the fickleness of the Isle of Wight’s aspiring MPs, out for a vote, particularly Jill Wareham, Liberal Democrat candidate.

It is just a very short time since her spring newsletter arrived thought Island letterboxes, proclaiming support for the Cheverton Down wind turbine appeal and saying she “would like to see wind turbines here”.

Since then, the announcement has been made for a second attempt at constructing wind turbines at Wellow, a project that Jill’s husband Martin at least was against when it was proposed and he went around canvassing for the Lib Dems in the 2005 local elections (or at least that was the view he gave on this householder’s doorstep). Martin Wareham, by the way, failed to take Freshwater Norton from now provenly corrupt councillor Conservative Andy Sutton way back then (Sutton is currently one of several councillors suspended over their conduct in a planning application).

No one remembers Jill having an opinion about the Wellow turbines at the time, and she was ultimately ousted from the Brighstone & Calbourne seat in a year when Lib Dem heads rolled like an avalanche after the party cocked up its policy on the Island’s schools. She resurfaced in 2010 banging her drum as prospective Lib Dem parliamentary candidate.

Back to turbines. Come this week, and with not one but two wind turbine plans now in the offing, Jill’s election communication omits any mention of wind turbines on the Island. And although her steps towards a fairer Britain and priorities for Islanders have increased from 4 to 7, renewable energy (a fair future: creating jobs by making Britain greener) has slipped from third to fourth.

Supporting wind turbines will cost Jill the votes of the Island’s old people and the wealthy. It’s no surprise that all mention of them should be dropped.

The Arcadian Kicks: three in a row

It was almost too much to hope for, but one of my favourite bands from the Isle of Wight Festival is back for a third time.  The Arcadian Kicks play on Saturday 11 June 2010 in the Big Top, having played there in 2008 and 2009. It’s a bit tricky getting over to the mainland to see them on their regular Midlands circuit, so a third festival attendance in a row is a treat.

The group have now recorded an album, which is intended to see the light of day sometime this year.

Keep an eye on them at

Festival news:

First normal day

Today is the first normal day I’ve had since September last year. J. went off to work, taking Jimjams to school, and abandoning me to my quiet and bizarre world of toy soldiers.

She was cleared fit to work starting from Monday, and went off to see personnel that day to find out what was left of her job after almost 12 months’ absence. It’s not quite over: J. still needs check-ups every couple of months.

Throughout the past year, family, friends and even strangers have helped keep J., Jimjams and I going. It’s been an undeniably dark and stressful time, made worse by knowing that J.’s father died from leukaemia when she was very young (the condition, however, is not hereditary). Medical treatment has advanced hugely in that time, and the leukaemia team at Southampton have been something special.

It may, of course, take a little while for us all to get completely back on the rails.