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How Brexit affects the postal service between Spain and the UK at Christmas

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The Local - [email protected]
How Brexit affects the postal service between Spain and the UK at Christmas
A Spanish postal service's employee works at Ronda's sorting office on October 2, 2013, in Ronda. AFP PHOTO JORGE GUERRERO (Photo by Jorge Guerrero / AFP)

Christmas is coming, and the question of sending seasonal parcels and cards post-Brexit from Spain to the UK and vice versa is again rearing its ugly head, coupled with the fact that British Royal Mail workers are on strike.

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Since the United Kingdom left the EU, the rules for sending parcels have changed.

In many cases, costs have gone up because of customs charges and VAT requirements. In some other cases, products can no longer be sent at all.

It’s not unusual for Britons in Spain to get parcels from family containing a little taste of home – from homemade treats to products not easily available in Europe – but Brexit has changed some of this. 

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All types of parcels – whether commercial or private – are affected by changes to rules that came into force when the UK left the EU.

In practical terms, it means that it costs more to send gifts from the EU to the UK, and vice versa. It also takes longer, and certain items are banned.

READ MORE: Why post to and from the UK from Spain is more expensive after Brexit

UK to EU

As well as having the appropriate postage, gift parcels sent from the UK to the EU need an extra customs declaration form attached.

This form asks for the sender and recipient’s details, whether the item is a gift or an item sent for sale (which can affect the level of duty to be paid) and a detailed description of what’s inside – so, sadly, Christmas parcels lose their element of surprise. 

The form is available to download here. And the basic prices are on the Royal Mail website here.

Because of the Northern Ireland protocol, these new rules do not apply to people sending parcels to the EU from Northern Ireland.

The recipient may have to pay customs or VAT charges and a handling fee in the receiving country before they can claim the parcel.

The amount will depend on the country you are sending to, the value of the item and whether it's a gift or commercial goods.

When the new rules came into effect in January 2021, several people in Spain reported being charged large amounts in delivery fees from items being sent from friends and family in the UK.

According to Spain's Correos postal service "The recipient will have to bear the costs corresponding to the customs processing and must also pay any taxes imposed in accordance with current customs regulations (VAT or the Canary Island General Indirect Tax (IGIC) in the Canary Islands) and Special Taxes. However, they may be exempt from the payment of customs duty when there is documentary proof that the goods contained in the shipment originated in the United Kingdom, except the territory of Northern Ireland."

Keep in mind as well that on six days throughout December 2022, UK postal workers are holding a series of strikes which will delay letter and parcel deliveries. In fact, the last posting days for Christmas international tracking and signature deliveries to Spain was December 10th.

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Sending food products from the UK to Spain

Additional issues come into play if you plan to send food products from the UK to the EU – you may remember the brouhaha over lorry drivers’ ham and cheese sandwiches back when Brexit initially came into force. 

Importing products derived from an animal into the EU from a Third Country (which is what the UK now is) is a complicated process and the rules apply to both businesses and individuals – in 2021 it caused British stores in Spain to run out of products.

The EU’s strict phytosanitary rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products technically come under these rules, so sending a box of chocolates by post to Spain is now not allowed (because of the milk). 

Parcels that contain banned animal products can be seized and destroyed at the border.

READ MORE:

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EU to UK

New rules also affect sending parcels from EU countries like Spain to the UK. 

As with sending parcels the other way, a customs declaration must be completed before sending, either at the post office or in advance by downloading it from the postal service of the relevant country.

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.

On the Correos website for sending a parcel online (and then dropping it off at a post office), the cost of sending a parcel from Spain to the UK starts at €31.65, for parcels weighing under 30kg.

Sending food products from Spain to the UK

Here, at least there’s good news. UK rules are currently less restrictive than EU ones – which means sending food parcels from Spain to the UK is slightly easier.

The British government website currently states the UK has imposed no restrictions on dairy food or meat for ‘personal’ imports of food – though the usual rules on customs and duty still apply, and there are limits on amounts that can be claimed as ‘personal’.

This means gifts of food and drink – up to strict limits and suitably packaged – should be accepted by UK customs officials.

While probably quite expensive, you'll still be able to send a bit of delicious jamón serrano to friends and family in the UK for Christmas. Just make sure you give it enough time to get there before the sell-by date.

READ ALSO: How to avoid high fees when sending a gift between Spain and the UK post-Brexit

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