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François Carion of Grisdoranger antiques warehouse based in Normandy, pictured at Kempton.

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These dealers are welcome fixtures at IACF Ardingly and Sunbury Antiques Market at Kempton Park.

But now they must fill in export declarations before departure, painstakingly itemising everything in their vans, including prices. A single error can hold up lorries for hours at a time. Bravely tackling the new paperwork regime, a few hardy dealers stalled out at the first post-lockdown Kempton on April 13.

François Carion of Grisdoranger antiques warehouse based in Normandy (@grisdoranger) deals in 18th and 19th century French furniture, attending Kempton twice a month pre-pandemic.

“It was hard this time as we now have to cross the Channel as commercial freight,” he told ATG. “We have a customs broker – you need one in France – and that helped.”

Covering costs

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Doli Estevez of Belgian brocante dealership L’Anecdote.

Doli Estevez of Belgian brocante dealership L’Anecdote (@l_anecdote) is another Kempton regular and brought more stock than usual to cover new administrative costs. “We have to do inventories with commodity codes, the value of each item and pay brokers in Belgium and the UK.”

Her highlight sale this time was a c.1900 signed René Lalique lemonade set sold to a UK dealer for £1200, having shown it by photograph the week before. “I’ve done well today, so coming here is still worth it,” she said. 

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Matthew Nellist buys Mid-century and antique furniture and decorative items in France to sell in the UK.

Matthew Nellist buys Mid-century and antique furniture and decorative items in France to sell in the UK. With the addition of Covid formalities his most recent trip was difficult, “waiting in a shed in Calais for customs documentation to come through as the Covid-test clock was ticking down”.

Nellist and Carion both believe the EU-to-UK trip will get easier. Carion vows to urge his French dealer friends to “get themselves a customs broker and come back to doing UK fairs”.

Nellist estimates the paperwork for a single trip can take a full day “but there are ways of saving time and administrative cost. My top tip to other dealers who trade with the EU? Be patient, knowing there is the extra bureaucracy involved.”