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OPINION: Britons in Spain will need to get used to life without Cheddar

Brexit means it will be difficult to source our favourite Cheddar, writes cheese-addict Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain.

OPINION: Britons in Spain will need to get used to life without Cheddar
Photo: UKTI/Flickr

As Brits across Europe adjust to a new, post-Brexit reality, the consequences of leaving the EU are gradually revealing themselves to the British public.

So far, most issues haven’t affected Brits living in Spain directly. Whether it’s cries of betrayal from the fishing industry, or businesses concerned re the bureaucracy – and cost – of exporting to Europe, the main impact has been felt by Brits in Britain, not those in Europe.   

However, we have experienced some teething problems of our own – especially related to travel and ordering goods from the UK.

This week, Dutch border guards had a joke at the expense of Brexit, confiscating sandwiches from British travellers. While many extremists jumped to the easy and false conclusion that EU countries are punishing Brits for Brexit, the answer was far simpler: they were applying EU law and border control. Taking back control of their borders, if you wish.

You might not care a fig for post Brexit fishing policy, or EU companies being forced to collect VAT for the British government, but one thing the Brits do care about is good old British food!

The Dutch border incident highlighted the issues that British travellers will face should they attempt to import foodstuffs to any EU country. That includes bringing our favourite foods back from the UK.

So, what, exactly can we bring back with us? Banned foods include all ‘products of animal origin’ – commonly referred to as ‘POAO’ – vegetables, and most fruits. That means no meat or diary, or any products “made with high levels of unprocessed dairy ingredients”. 

Sadly, this includes cakes and my own personal passion – cheese. Baby milk and infant foods are exempt, as are speciality foods required for medicinal purposes. I’m not sure Spanish border staff would accept that mature Cheddar is required for my physical or mental health!

The fruit exemptions include bananas (appropriately bendy, of course!), dates, pineapples and coconuts. Fish can be imported as long as it weighs less than 20 kilos. The new rules apply when travelling from the UK to the EU, not the reverse.

Regardless of how long we’ve lived in Spain, many of us visit the UK with a list of items to ship home. These might not be available in Spain or are more expensive when sourced locally.

Loving extra strong Cheddar does not mean that I dislike Spanish cheese. On the contrary, my taste for cheese is quite diverse. When I mentioned this topic on a social media post, I was inundated with recommendations for strong, quality Cheddar available at several Spanish supermarket chains. Some I have tried, and others I will seek out. However, availability of our favourite foods from the UK is only part of the problem.

UK exporters wishing to sell to the European market are facing significant additional costs and paperwork. Many are rethinking their strategy and analysing whether it is viable to supply European markets post-Brexit. Some companies have already decided that the benefits don’t outweigh the costs.

Companies that decide to continue trading with Spain are unlikely to absorb all additional costs. This means the costs are likely to be passed on to the consumer. If more businesses choose to halt exportation, then our favourite British foodstuffs may be even harder to source.

I’ve lost count of the how many times my hand-luggage has been searched at Stansted airport before I board my return flight to Spain. The reason? Blocks of cheese! It always causes concern on the X-ray monitor, even when (as instructed), I have removed it from my case and put it on full display. Apparently, a large block of extra mature resembles the appearance of Semtex. Never once, have I ever experienced any trouble bringing it into Spain. Now, I won’t be able to.

Whether your particular taste is for Bovril, cheese, corned beef, proper bangers or a Marks and Spencer sarnie, those days are over.

While I regret this situation, I can live with buying my favourite British foods here at a premium, or savouring them when I visit England. I might be hooked on my Pilgrim’s Choice Vintage or Davidstow Cornish Cheddar, but I’d swap them in a second for my freedom of movement. I might be a cheese addict, but I’m not completely bonkers!

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain

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Member comments

  1. Diddums, Madge – the shambles the EU have made rolling out the coronavirus vaccine alone makes leaving the EU worthwhile all by itself. So adept at sweeping it’s chaotic practices under the carpet the 27-headed monster has for once been caught in the cross-hairs of media attention and even rags like El Pais can’t ignore it. Enjoy the weather…cheddar and marmite toasties for lunch, Jeeves!

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BANKING

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

UK nationals living in Spain have begun to receive letters from their bank telling them that their accounts will be closed, in an apparent post-Brexit change. Have you been affected?

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

Customers of Barclays Bank who are living in Spain and other EU countries have been receiving letters telling them that their UK accounts will be closed by the end of the year. 

A number of readers of The Local’s network of news websites have contacted us to report receiving either letters or messages in their online banking telling them that their accounts would be closed because of their residency in Spain or in other countries in the EU.

A Barclays spokesperson told The Local: “As a ring fenced bank, our Barclays UK products are designed for customers within the UK.

“We will no longer be offering services to personal current account or savings customers (excluding ISAs) within the European Economic Area. We are contacting impacted customers to give them advance notice of this decision and outline the next steps they need to take.”  

Customers are being given six months to make alternative arrangements. The changes affect all personal current accounts or savings accounts, but do not affect ISAs, loans or mortgages.

During the Brexit transition period Barclays closed Barclaycard accounts of customers in Spain, but did not indicate any changes to standard bank accounts.

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Around the same time several other British high street banks began closing accounts of British customers who live in the EU, although with the exception of Barclaycard customers in Spain who were largely spared.

Many UK nationals who live in Spain maintain at least one UK bank account – in addition to a Spanish account – sometimes just for savings but others use their accounts regularly to receive income such as pensions or income from rental property or – for remote workers – to receive income for work done in the UK.

Not having a UK bank account can make financial transactions in the UK more complicated or incur extra banking fees.

READ MORE: What are the best UK banks for Brits in Spain?

Since Brexit, the UK banking sector no longer has access to the ‘passporting’ system which allows banks to operate in multiple EU countries without having to apply for a separate banking licence for each country.

And it seems that many UK high street banks are deciding that the extra paperwork is not worth the hassle and are withdrawing completely from certain EU markets. 

When British banks began withdrawing services from customers in the EU back in 2020, a UK government spokesman told British newspaper The Times that “the provision of banking services is a commercial decision for firms based on a number of factors” so Brits in Spain probably shouldn’t hold their breath for any help from that direction.

READ ALSO: Premium Bond holders in Spain may have to cash in if no UK bank account

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