Fiscally embarrassed Germans and Austrians in particular are reportedly flocking to the UK in order to declare themselves bankrupt here. And we thought they were coming for the beer and friendly locals. Their destination of choice? The leafy Kentish spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells.
The reason apparently is that our insolvency laws are much less draconian than those in some other European countries we could mention. Having lived here for a mere six months, any EU national can be declared bankrupt in a UK court and have their debts written off only a year later. So Italians and Spaniards are coming too, but it's especially popular with Germans. Not least because their domestic authorities take such a dim view of terminal endebtedness - bankrupts face a wait of up to nine years before they are let off the hook there.
But why Tunbridge Wells? (Not that we have anything against the place - or its famously disgusted correspondents.) Well, apart from being a harmless enough spot to spend 18 months waiting for the financial all-clear - we hear the Pantiles are lovely at this time of year - it also happens to be pretty handy for the Eurostar at Ebbsfleet. Perfect for those clandestine weekend trips back home. And the rent is cheaper than London – presumably an important consideration for those who are sufficently cash-strapped to consider such a move in the first place.
One enterprising German expat, Marcus Kray – based in nearby if not quite so sylvan Erith – has even set up a specialist agency to advise insolvency tourists on how best to go about clearing their debts the UK way. His clients, he says, are mainly professionals – doctors, lawyers, consultants – and he is adamant that ‘None are taking Jobseekers allowance’. So that’s alright then.
Although the fact that all these educated and professional Germans are getting so badly in debt in the first place does rather tarnish the country’s reputation as the home of fiscal rectitude and prudent spending.
But then again, given the British talent for racking up unsecured consumer debt, our profligate foreign visitors probably feel quite at home here. Many apparently like it so much they elect to stay on, even after the slate has been wiped clean. What will those notoriously outspoken letter-writers of Tunbridge Wells make of that, we wonder?
In today's bulletin:
Builders tap the City for £1bn as business picks up
Bad inductions can be a killer for the NHS
German bankrupts go for broke in Tunbridge Wells
Credit-crunched public giving less to charity
1,400 jobs to go at Vauxhall now Magna's at the wheel?