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CHRISTMAS

How Brexit will affect the postal service between Spain and the UK over Christmas

Christmas is coming, and the question of sending seasonal parcels from Spain to the UK - and vice versa - for the first post-Brexit festive season is approaching even faster.

How Brexit will affect the postal service between Spain and the UK over Christmas
Since Brexit came into effect, costs have gone up because of customs charges and VAT requirements. In a few cases, products may no longer be sent at all. Photo by Jorge Guerrero / AFP

Now that Britain has 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 a few cases, products may 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. 

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.

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 Europe 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, several people reported being charged large amounts in delivery fees from items being sent from friends and family in the UK.

Food products

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 in January. 

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 – and is causing British stores in Spain to run out of products.

READ ALSO: ‘It’s a disaster’: How British stores in Spain are being hit by Brexit

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.

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.

Food products

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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FOOD & DRINK

‘We’re going to hell’: Supermarket’s readymade fried eggs offend Spaniards

Spain's most popular supermarket Mercadona has shocked shoppers by selling pre-cooked fried eggs in plastic packaging, sparking a huge uproar among environmentalists and food lovers.

'We're going to hell': Supermarket's readymade fried eggs offend Spaniards

In a country where food is sacrosanct, gastronomic scandals that blow up on social media are not rare (we’re looking at you Jaime Oliver, and your chorizo paella).

Spanish supermarket chain Mercadona has written the latest chapter in Spain’s long list of food faux pas by selling two vacuum sealed fried eggs for €1.80.

That’s around the same price as buying a dozen uncooked eggs in Spain, but it’s not the price which has upset most Spaniards, rather the fact that something as simple and quick as cooking a couple of huevos in the frying pan is deemed too laborious and time consuming for some shoppers, according to Mercadona at least. 

The label on the packaging states “put in the microwave for 45 seconds”.

One tweet that has gone viral typifies the response of many Spaniards to this bizarre supermarket offering. “We are going to hell”, wrote Dr Elena Casado Pineda along with a photo of the packaged eggs.

Another user who posted a video of himself petrified under his bed covers, said “Mercadona selling fried eggs is the beginning of the end”’.

Several others have taken to TikTok to review Mercadona’s divisive eggs. “It tastes like an egg, even though one made at home is much better, obviously,” concluded one young influencer.

Eggs are after all a staple food product in the Spanish diet and essential for classic dishes such as the tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette) and revueltos (scrambled eggs with other food mixed in).

Numerous Spanish media outlets have also covered ‘egg-gate’. La Sexta TV interviewed a nutritionist to get an expert opinion on Mercadona’s fried eggs and evaluate their pros and cons.

Others have highlighted the repulsion of a large part of the Spanish population, some stressing that Mercadona aren’t the first to engage in such lazy and wasteful food offerings as Carrefour sells pre-peeled and dissected tangerines.

In the case of public broadcaster RTVE, the focus was primarily on what it represented in terms of plastic waste and the country’s new laws to reduce it.

“An average person in Spain throws away 34 kilos of single-use plastic packaging a year,” Blanca Rubial of environmentalist group Amigos de la Tierra told RTVE.

Spain’s new plastic waste law will ban plastic packaging of fresh fruit and vegetables if they weigh under 1.5kg, something that won’t affect pre-cooked food such as the controversial eggs.

Others have also pointed out that for people with reduced mobility (of their hands in particular) as well as blind people, having access to pre-cooked eggs can be useful, although previous attempts to market these products to such groups haven’t proven very successful.

Mercadona has responded by saying that their packaged fried eggs are only being sold in some of its supermarkets during a trial period.

Food delivery services have increased by 80 percent in Spain over the last three years, and takeaways by 68 percent between 2019 and 2021, with the pandemic no doubt largely influencing this.

It’s a booming business and whether Spaniards would like to admit it or not, their increasingly frenetic rhythm of life means that having time to cook isn’t always their top priority, even though they are by and large food lovers and proud of their gastronomy.

That said, who can’t spare the three minutes it takes to fry an egg?

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