Christmas is coming, and the most ardent Christmas fans have already started planning their festivities. But even if you are one of nature’s Scrooges, you may need to start making your Christmas plans earlier than usual this year. That’s because, as a result of the extra red tape caused by Brexit, any cards and gifts that you plan to send to the UK may take longer than usual to arrive this year. This isn’t just an issue for Britons living in Spain; anyone in the UK wanting to post gifts to friends and family living in Spain will also be impacted. Here’s everything you need to know about how your postal plans might be affected:
How Have the Rules Changed?
The rules around sending parcels between Britain and the EU have been different since Brexit, but this Christmas is likely to be the first time many individuals have first-hand experience of these changes. The first thing that you might notice is that postage is more expensive: this is because of new VAT requirements and increased customs charges. You may also find that the products you sent last year (and the year before, and the year before that) can now no longer be sent across the border. This is because Brexit border rules mean that certain foodstuffs cannot be shipped into the EU from the UK
What Food Stuffs Can and Can’t I Send?
The traditional Christmas gift of food is likely to be the most difficult gift to send this Christmas. There have been many reports about confusion around food on the borders, and some British lorry drivers even found that their cheese and ham sandwiches were confiscated at border control because carrying them with them breached the new rules. So, what are the rules? In short, any food stuff that is derived of any animal product (meaning that it contains meat, cheese, milk, or even sweets that contain gelatin) cannot be transported between the UK and the EU. This is a rule that applies to both businesses and individuals and will make sending even the simplest of gifts impossible: a box of chocolates, for example, would not be permitted. Wondering if you could post your favourite traditional British delicacies anyone? It’s not worth the risk! Any parcels that contain banned animal products will be seized and destroyed at the border, meaning you could go to a lot of effort for your family to go without gifts!
If you’re living in Spain and hoping to send food to the UK, then the good news is that the border control rules surrounding importing food are less restrictive in this direction, so sending your favourite edible treats should be a little easier. Whilst the British government has imposed import rules on businesses, there are no restrictions on the import of dairy or meat products for personal use. As long as your gift is below the strictly enforced limits and has been packaged correctly, it should fly through UK customs: although the cost of sending these gifts will still be higher than in previous years, because of all the additional tax charges. All you have to do is ensure your food gifts are well packaged, and that they have a long sell by date, in case border delays lengthen the time it takes for them to arrive.
Sending Gifts from the UK to the EU
As well as ensuring that your package is well packaged, when you are sending a gift from Spain to the UK you will also need to complete an extra customs declaration form, and then attach it to your gift. Unfortunately, this will remove the element of surprise from your gift, because the prominently displayed form will clearly state what’s inside! It will also ask for the sender and recipient details, and whether the item is a gift or for sale. You can download that form here. As Northern Ireland has remained in the EU, these rules do not apply to sending parcels from Spain to Northern Ireland.
You should also be aware that you may be giving the gift of a customs bill! In some circumstances, the recipient may have to pay VAT or customs charges, as well as a handling fee, to enable them to collect their parcel.
Sending Gifts from the EU to the UK
The rules surrounding sending gifts from the EU to the UK are similar to the rules for sending gifts from the UK to the EU: you will need to complete a customs declaration form and attach it to your parcel, and there may also be some charges to be paid. If you are sending a gift from Spain to the UK, import VAT typically only applies to goods whose value is over £39, or the equivalent in Euros. Customs Duty is due only if the value of goods is over £135.
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