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OPINION - BREXIT

BREXIT

Brits in EU: It’s your future, so act now to keep Britain in

If you're one of over 2 million British people living elsewhere in Europe, June's referendum might be making you anxious. You should make your voice heard, says George Cunningham.

Brits in EU: It's your future, so act now to keep Britain in
Photo: Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP

Alex is a bright ambitious 26-year-old British-Asian student studying in Germany. A former flight attendant for a major airline, he made the decision to go to university later than most and is due to graduate with degree which could give him access to 28 job markets across the EU, as well as skills in German and Dutch.

Gill is a 72-year-old pensioner living in France. She and her husband moved there when they retired 14 years ago and have settled in well with their local community. They have French and British friends and love living there.

Both Alex and Gill represent different aspects of the British expat experience in Europe. And both share the same anxieties about what the future holds for them and other Brits after the EU referendum on 23rd June.

At 2.2 million the UK’s expat community across Europe is roughly equivalent to a city the size of Manchester. That’s no small number but only a tiny part of the monumental headache any British government would have to deal with when negotiating any post-Brexit settlement.

Since David Cameron got his deal in Brussels and announced the date of the referendum we have seen a lot more discussion about what could happen to the rights, benefits and residency status of Brits living in EU countries. But we must remember that much of this is speculative: no one knows for certain what will happen if Britain chooses to leave the EU.  

So the only way expats can be 100% sure of their pension and healthcare rights (to name but two)  is to vote ‘remain’ on 23rd June. It is that simple.

This means that expats who can still vote should register for a proxy or postal vote as soon as possible. Only 109,000 British expats voted to register for the General Election in 2015. And that’s the global figure. Not the EU one.  


George Cunningham, pictured outside the UK Parliament. Photo: Private

The Electoral Commission reports that there has been some increase in registration recently. But much more is needed. Registering now is particularly crucial because it was only a year ago that many of our members told us they couldn’t vote in the General Election due to administrative problems and cock-ups by local councils. 

Furthermore, expats who have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years should continue to make a fuss and urge family and friends to vote ‘remain’; if not for them then to secure the right for Brits to study, work and retire across the EU in future. Voting in the EU referendum is a once in a generation decision and one that will have an impact on our all our family and friends for years to come.

And finally, for many expats (both in the EU and worldwide) anxiety over referendum is about much more than self-interest. We experience daily what it means to live in the international community and the values and benefits that this brings. It’s no surprise, therefore that the Liberal Democrats have called their campaign #INtogether.

With the polls as tight as they are, expats who care about their future and Britain’s place in the world must register to vote as soon as possible. Every vote will count and expats may well hold the balance.

George Cunningham is Chair of Brits Abroad: Yes to Europe, an expat campaign group to keep Britain in the EU. It is a non-partisan get out the vote initiative run by the Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats. managed by the Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats. The campaign has a Facebook page with up-to-date news about the debate on: https://www.facebook.com/BritsAbroadYestoEurope/

 

For members

TRAVEL NEWS

Summer travel between Spain and the UK: What can I not pack in my suitcase?

If you're travelling between Spain and the UK this summer and want to take some of your favourite treats with you, here's what you should know about the food and drink rules post-Brexit so you don't get caught out by customs.

Summer travel between Spain and the UK: What can I not pack in my suitcase?

Flying to the UK from Spain

For those flying to the UK from Spain, the rules are relatively lax.

Note, if you’re spending the summer in Northern Ireland there are different rules on food and animal products. Find them here. 

You can bring the following products from Spain into the UK without worrying about any restrictions:

  • bread, but not sandwiches filled with meat or dairy products
  • cakes without fresh cream
  • biscuits
  • chocolate and confectionery, but not those made with unprocessed dairy ingredients
  • pasta and noodles, but not if mixed or filled with meat or meat products
  • packaged soup, stocks and flavourings
  • processed and packaged plant products, such as packaged salads and frozen plant material
  • food supplements containing small amounts of an animal product, such as fish oil capsules

Meat, dairy, fish and animal products

If, like many of us, you have friends and family already putting in their orders for stocks of jamón serrano, know that the rules on bringing meat, dairy, fish and other animal products into the UK are relatively relaxed. You can bring in meat, fish, dairy and other animal products as long as they’re from the EU, so your jamón and Manchego cheese are safe. 

what food can and cannot bring between spain and the uk

You will still be able to bring cured Spanish ham from Spain to the UK. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)
 

Alcohol allowance

For many, the big one, but there are some limits on how much booze you can bring in from Spain and the EU more generally. How much you can bring depends on the type of alcohol, so get up to speed on the limits and make sure your favourite Rioja and Cava aren’t taken off you or heavily taxed:

Limits:

  • beer – 42 litres
  • still wine – 18 litres
  • spirits and other liquors over 22 percent alcohol – 4 litres
  • sparkling wine, fortified wine (port, sherry etc) and other alcoholic drinks up to 22 percent alcohol (not including beer or still wine) – 9 litres

It’s worth knowing that you can split your allowance, for example you could bring 4.5 litres of fortified wine and 2 litres of spirits (both half of your allowance).

Flying into Spain from the UK

While British borders are laid back when it comes to travelling with food and drink, the rules are much tougher when entering the EU from the UK.

Most importantly, tea bags – longed for by Brits the world over – are allowed. Marmite, which is vegan, is also fine to bring but Bovril, which contains beef stock, is not.

Travellers arriving in the EU from Britain can, according to the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC), bring the following quantities of alcohol, so if you fancy a British tipple in Spain over the summer such as Pimm’s it is possible, within reason: 4 litres of still wine and 16 litres of beer, 1 litre of spirits, or 2 litres of sparkling or fortified wine.

If you arrive in the EU from a non-EU country, you cannot bring any meat or dairy products with you. That means no Wensleydale, no Cornish Brie in your ploughman’s lunch and no British bacon to enjoy in Spain for English breakfast fry-ups.

Ploughman's lunch

British cheese for your Ploughman’s lunch is not allowed. Photo: Glammmur / WikiCommons

The EU’s strict rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products technically come under these rules, so even your custard powder to make rhubarb fool or bars of your favourite chocolate are now banned, because of the milk.

Be aware, however Spanish customs do not always check your suitcase, so you may be able to get away with bringing in a small packaged item such as a chocolate bar, without it being confiscated. 

Similarly, if you’re planning on asking a friend or family member to bring you over some sweets, cakes, or other home comforts, be aware that the ban includes all products that contain any meat or dairy as an ingredient – which includes items like chocolate, fudge, and some sweets (because of the gelatine.)

You are allowed to bring a small quantity of fruit and vegetables as well as eggs, some egg products, and honey. Restricted quantities of fish or fish products are also allowed: eviscerated fresh fish products (gutted, with all the organs removed), and processed fishery products are allowed up to 20 kg or 1 fish, so you can enjoy some Scottish smoked salmon in Spain over the summer if you want.

If you’re travelling with kids, note that powdered infant milk, infant food and specifically required medical foods are allowed up to 2kg, as is the case for pet foods. 

Clotted cream for cream teas won’t be allowed to be brought into Spain. Photo: Tuxraider reloaded / WikiCommons

This means that even the classic British summertime favourites such as sausage rolls, scotch eggs, packaged trifle and clotted cream for your cream tea will not be allowed because of the meat and dairy they contain.

It is worth noting that these strict EU rules also apply to sending products by post, so if you were hoping to get around the newly applicable legislation by having someone send you a delivery some Devon fudge, they will probably be intercepted and confiscated by Spain’s postal service, unfortunately. 

READ ALSO: Are there limits on bringing medicines into Spain?

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