The 31st of January 2020 marked the day the United Kingdom left the European Union in accordance with the Brexit Referendum. The effects of Brexit range in scale from the large international challenges such as trade to the seemingly mundane as hobbies being affected.
One such hobby that has been affected by Brexit is tabletop war games, which revolve around players buying models, building them, painting them, and then playing against others. However, with Brexit, it has become more difficult to enjoy the hobby.
One such hobbyist is James Keown, an Undergraduate student at Ulster University who has been into the hobby for around five years playing primarily Warhammer 40,000, made by the UK based company Games Workshop, as well as games which are manufactured outside of the UK.
“Brexit has affected the hobby in a few ways seemingly on the downside” said Keown. “It has limited my ability to get access to models, some manufacturers are within the EU or outside of EU, meaning all stock for models, dice and books have been limited. It has also led to some retailers upping their prices in preparation for import charges.”
“Further difficulties come from being in Northern Ireland, as article 16 has further limited access to shipping coming from England in regards to Games Workshop. With suppliers and stock from Europe or the States meaning stock can go months or in some cases a year to get restocked.”
“Brexit has mostly been a negative, however the Irish Sea border in Northern Ireland has provided us with some upsides. Despite stock coming into Northern Ireland being limited, our access to the soft border means that stock coming from Europe is better than in England”
As a reminder, Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol revolves around the ability for wither the EU or the UK to take safeguards should the protocol cause serious issues for trade as a result of leaving Northern Ireland in the single market for EU goods.
The Irish Sea border is term used in reference to how because of the Northern Ireland Protocol requiring goods to be checked NI ports coming from the rest of the UK, people have laid criticism at the new checks functionally creating a new border. Because of the protocol, Northern Ireland is in a more unique position then the rest of the UK with how Brexit affects the hobby.
As the models are produced and sent out from England and not Northern Ireland, they become subject to customs checks which can heavily slow down the process for hobbyist getting new models, among other issues such as pricing and availability.
This has also led to Northern Irish model shops to be in a new position regarding their businesses.
Justin McAuley is a team Member at OnTableTop, a tabletop games shop located in Coleraine which sells Warhammer models as well as models for Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, and many other tabletop games. McAuley was able to discuss how Brexit has affected the store both in positive and negative ways.
“Because of us being based here in Northern Ireland, we were able to get around a lot of customs charges that most other online retailers would have had to face. So, say it was someone like Firestorm over in Wales, as soon as they’re trying to send something over to Europe, because of Brexit, import charges are then being applied which are sometimes as expensive as the miniature kit itself” said McAuley.
“Here in Northern Ireland were able to get around that a little bit because we have the open border with the south, we were able to continue sending stuff out without getting hit with customs charges although it did take them quite a while to figure out whether or not to apply them because by sending via royal mail it would go from here in Ireland, to the UK, and then on to Europe so they actually had to setup new systems for that.”
“Honestly, I have noticed a bit of an increase in sales because of that, because we’ve been able to dodge it. We’ve also noticed that there was a little bit more lag on stuff coming from suppliers in England to get to here. So, I’m guessing that’s from additional checks and stuff that they have to do because technically we are and are not in Europe at the minute. We’re kinda like Schrodinger’s European.”
As an individual store, their experience had similarities to that of the individual hobbyist in that they experienced delays with getting supplies. However, being based in Northern Ireland gave them a unique position to continue being able to sell to the EU and has allowed them to have increased sales.
So, while it has caused potential difficulties with the speed of which they can receive products, it hasn’t affected the business too strongly in a negative way. However, McAuley pointed out another issue that is going to be affecting the hobby as a result of Brexit.
“The biggest thing is going to be working with conventions. So, all of the British companies that normally would have done something like Essen (a board game convention) in Germany, it’s gonna be a little harder for them to go because you no longer have open travel so your gonna have to start giving them visas and anything like stock and such that they’re importing for the show is probably gonna have to go through customs which is gonna make it difficult for live shows in Europe.”
These types of events can be very important for companies to show off their products and having difficulty going to them can impact sales. It can also make it difficult for fans to learn about new games.
Brexit is an ever-changing situation but it is important to see that it can impact even very niche areas of peoples’ lives. So, while not everyone is waiting on models so that they can go to war with their friends, it can still impact them and their lives.