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

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
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.

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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