The date is approaching after which Great Britain will no longer be part of the European Union. How will life change for its ride operators?
BRITISH OPERATORS AFTER BREXIT
di Enrico Fabbri
Excepting special agreements yet to be signed, in just under one year, at 11 p.m. on 29 March, 2019, the United Kingdom will officially no longer be part of the European Union, with few advantages and many disadvantages for local ride operators. Let’s then look in detail what will change in practice for them in their professional field.
We’ll start with some preliminary considerations. The United Kingdom is a very important market for amusement attractions, both those installed in fixed parks and in fun fairs. Local fairs are very popular and well attended, even in bad weather. Historically, Great Britain had many manufacturers; since the 1990s, however, the number has progressively decreased and now can be counted on one hand. Consequently, almost all the attractions currently operating in Great Britain were built in Italy and the Netherlands.
UK operators have always been willing to take on trips lasting several months to take their attractions abroad. The first to operate professionally in Dubai, around 1996/1998, at major local events such as the Dubai Global Shopping Festival, were in fact British. The same can be said for many Hong Kong events and fairs. UK operators therefore represent an important part of history for all of us.
The first change that will come into effect the day after Brexit will relate to customs practices for the purchase of attractions. In short, British operators can no longer, once having bought a ride abroad, simply hook it up and take it home, as they will have to stop at customs and present all the import documents, such as invoice and registration book. These customs practices are not always simple and often require the use of special offices or service agencies. Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that customs offices are not open at night or on weekends.
The same problem will arise even if a UK operator decides to take a ride to a European fun fair. Temporary imports will not always be possible, which is why they will have to found a company in Europe and make a temporary sale to this second company in order to operate the attraction in Europe. And it is clear that VAT will have to be paid on the customs import value which then, like now, is always hard to get back.
Things will get even more complicated if a UK operator decides to rent an attraction to a European colleague. A normal rental invoice will no longer suffice, rather the bilateral agreements between Great Britain and that specific European nation will need to be verified, and the taxes on the profits generated will probably have to be paid in Europe.
With Brexit, the free circulation of goods will no longer apply; therefore for UK operators bringing an attraction from/to and around Europe, things will be very similar to bringing or taking the attraction to/from a non-European country such as Morocco or Algeria.
Even from the point of view of technical standards, things may change. Indeed, the United Kingdom may decide to adopt different rules, and in this case UK operators may have to pay extra money to adapt the manufacturers’ designs to different standards.
But the most important changes will be experienced by the large companies of operators in the United Kingdom who were planning to invest in other European countries. Many of their projects will be more expensive, if not prohibitively so. In fact, United Kingdom citizens will no longer have the automatic and guaranteed right to reside and do business in any European country; they will not be able to enjoy exactly the same rights as their other European competitors. It is sad to say, but in Europe they will be, when compared to other Europeans, ‘2nd division’ operators.
I repeat: it pains me to say this, because I greatly respect British operators for their inventiveness and ability to overcome obstacles, and I have learned a lot from them, but this is what will happen. It’s a real shame, and the whole European leisure industry will find itself a bit more lonely and less well-off.
Written by Mr. Enrico Fabbri firstname.lastname@example.org
Article originally published in Games Industry (Italy) magazine
Original date: June 2018
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