Greeting from Paris! I know. Not what you expected. This afternoon, Mrs P and I sat in the sun and had ourselves a modest little picnic. If I am to be honest with you, I did not expect to be sitting having a picnic in the Parisian sun, under the gaze of the beautiful Montmatre. I expected hard reality and officialdom to spoil my plans. But no. I have surprised even myself. My cunning ingenuity has paid off and here we are.
This was a trip several weeks in the making. It is true that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice against all but essential travel outside of the UK. It is also true that there’s a £5,000 fine for anyone who attempts to leave the UK for leisure purposes. But there is a huge and obvious loophole. Obvious to me, anyway. It seems no one else has thought about it. I am seriously considering setting myself up in business as a facilitation agency to help others take advantage of this enormous loophole. I should get going on a website, perhaps. I have a domain name in mind – imworkingnotonholiday.com. Have you spotted the loophole yet? Leisure travel may be forbidden. But goods transport is essential stuff and is containing as normal.
I set up Mexile Independent Traders at the end of January. I set up as a sole trader, which requires next to no paperwork. Simplicity is the name of the game. Some headed paper, business cards and a price list. The most expensive cost was in obtaining a €300 EORI number, required for exporting goods to the EU. Sounds pricey, but it comes with a money saving perk, which I’ll come to later. I downloaded all the documents I would need from the UK government website. Customs declarations, export forms, VAT forms etc etc etc.
I’m not going to try and fool you. If you bravely choose to go down this path, you are going to have to dedicate quite a few hours to studying the post Brexit rules and regulations that now apply when exporting anything to the EU. You might think that this is a good opportunity to make a quick buck on the side, taking over some popular British food and drink products to a market which has been deprived of them since the local M&S shelves emptied in January. Forget it. There’s a reason that food and drink exports to the EU are down between 50% and 99%, depending on the product. Have a good look at the 23 step process needed to move a pork chop across the channel, and move on to Plan B.
I’ve looked into this in some detail and I can tell you exactly what you want to export. Used car parts. You can export those to the EU with relative ease. There are no tariffs on used car parts and because they are not ‘the finished product’ there is no VAT payable either. There are still a half dozen forms to be completed, but it’s not overly complex. And, of course, used car parts can be obtained for next to nothing from abandoned vehicles or scrap yards. I managed to rustle up a total of twelve items for precisely £0.
Next you need a customer. For legal reasons, I’m not going to go into great depth here. You can join up the dots yourselves. If you’re a regular reader and you guess right, I’ll give you a knowing wink and a jovial smile. If you are from a branch of law enforcement, well it wasn’t me, guv. I will simply say this much – I am currently staying at the Hôtel Poisson d’Avril, a delightful three star establishment in the centre of Paris. It is run by the charming Monsieur Rene Artois and his wife and they have charged us a grand total of €240 for three nights stay. They had been offering a discount of €60, but we insisted we pay full price. We’re the only guests so it seems only fair to pay the proper price.
However, his very affable frere, Jaques, kindly purchased our collection of used car parts for €60. I have the emails detailing the transaction, invoices, delivery notes, all the export documents. Everything. The customs and border guys at Dover gave me and Mrs P a bit of a grilling, but our paperwork was all in order. We were allowed to board the ferry, once our Covid test results came back negative. Remember that €300 EORI number I paid out for? This is where I earned that cash back and then some. Commercial drivers get free tests. So Mrs P and I were saved from having to spend a total of £600 on tourist tests. I call that a win.
The downsides? Well, it’s 8pm and we’ve been in the hotel since curfew began at 7pm. Nothing is open other than cemeteries and churches. But our picnic was a very nice treat in the circumstances. We can go for walks over the next couple of days, once we’ve filled out the fifteen page document telling the authorities where we are going. Luckily, Mrs P and I must hand deliver each of the twelve used car parts to friends of Jacques, all of whom live within a pleasant walk of the hotel. Yes, I have thought of everything.
I will make not a penny from my enterprising business endeavours. Not a single penny. I will in fact make a small loss. How much? About the normal costs of a three night break in Paris, which is entirely coincidental I can assure you. But this is a good thing. By making a loss, I will not need to pay any tax and will save myself from the bother of all sorts of other documents and processes. I’m done with governmental documents, truly.
Still, the end result is this. I had an idea. I developed it further into a workable concept and I have now demonstrated that the concept functions as desired. I now have a proven pandemic proof method of travelling within the EU, no matter what twists and turns the virus may make in the coming months.
For now, I bid you a fond au revoir!