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ENGLAND

Will Brexit negotiators guarantee our rights to a full English breakfast?

Frankfurt resident and British expat Garreth Brooke is concerned about maintaining his supply of baked beans and HP sauce after Brexit.

Will Brexit negotiators guarantee our rights to a full English breakfast?
A full English breakfast. Photo: Dèsirèe Tonus / Flickr Creative Commons.

If you’re a British expat living in Germany like me, you’ve undoubtedly found that conversation frequently turns to Brexit and what it means for Brits in Europe. One critical but, to my mind, under-discussed consideration is the potential implications for that most important meal of the day: breakfast.

The German national breakfast is wonderful but sometimes, if we’re totally honest, it is more like an investigation into how many different varieties of cheese, meat, conserves, eggs and – most importantly – bread rolls one can reasonably fit onto the table without said table collapsing.

For a while my wife and I had one of these giant German breakfasts every weekend morning, but as time passed a uniquely British type of sickness started to grow in my stomach. It was a strange mix of homesickness and patriotism, expressing itself in a desperate craving for the English breakfast, that glorious combination of hash browns, baked beans, sausages, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, buttered white toast and brown sauce that leaves you sedentary, satisfied and sweating profusely.

Assembling a satisfactory English breakfast is challenging enough in England, where great debates rage over whether eggs should be fried or scrambled. Is it smokey or unsmoked bacon? Should it be toast or fried bread? Should tomatoes be included? And, if so, should they be tinned? Then there is perhaps the greatest controversy of them all – black pudding. (For the record, the correct answers are: fried; I don’t care, just give me lots; toast; a maximum of two fresh ones are acceptable; tinned tomatoes can bugger off; OH MY YES).

Friendships are made and broken over such debates. I can respect but not condone the decision to forgo black pudding, but if you dare to say that you think poached eggs go well with an English breakfast, I will ask you to leave the house and never return. Seriously. No, Chris, I still haven’t forgiven you.

The challenge of assembling an English breakfast in Germany is even more fraught with complexities. Bacon is not a problem, for Germans love their pork products, but finding a British style sausage is a challenge. You may say this is not a bad thing, but for me an intrinsic part of the English breakfast experience is using brown sauce to mask the flavour of mechanically recovered factory droppings. It is also possible to buy poor-quality sausages in Germany, but sadly they’re just not the same, no matter how much brown sauce you use.

Thankfully tomatoes, eggs and mushrooms aren’t a problem. Ask a German for a hash brown, however, and they will probably recommend you visit an Amsterdam coffee shop. Luckily this is just a language barrier issue – just ask for Rösti!

Alas, such cultural equivalency does not extend to baked beans, which are at best viewed with suspicion and at worst openly mocked as an example of terrible British taste in food. That this is outrageous almost goes without saying, but I’m prepared to accept a little baked bean mockery if it means my German friends will at least try them: I’m like a baked bean John the Baptist. Soon the world will understand.

But perhaps the critical ingredient is the last one. No matter how good the ingredients are, an English breakfast isn’t an English breakfast if it isn’t covered in brown sauce, and brown sauce isn’t brown sauce unless it has got ‘HP’ on the bottle. I don’t know about you, but there’s something about that particular combination of tomatoes, molasses, dates and vinegar that stirs up strange feelings that I can’t quite explain.

Sourcing the sauce is a challenge: it’s possible, though expensive, to buy it in Germany. I don’t know about you, but personally I book an extra piece of hold luggage just for HP sauce on flights back from the UK. Brexit may complicate this, though perhaps not quite as you might expect, for it turns out that HP Sauce with its iconic Houses of Parliament logo is actually one of us: a British expat who has been based in the Netherlands since 2007.

Politics aside, I’ve watched with unabashed joy as my German wife has fallen in love with the English breakfast. She tells me it is not entirely dissimilar to the Bauernfrühstück (farmer’s breakfast), a hash-like meal built around fried potatoes, bacon and egg. But there are obvious differences – not least the brown sauce and the baked beans.

That she enjoys copious slatherings of brown sauce on her English breakfast gives me a good deal of joy. Words cannot describe the mixture of pride and love I experienced the first time I witnessed her carefully arranging her plate so that her sausages formed a baked bean dam, for it was then I knew that she understood.

Garreth Brooke is a British expat currently living and working in Frankfurt am Main, where he teaches and composes music for the piano. Find out more at www.garrethbrokepiano.com

BREXIT

How roaming charges will hit travellers between the UK and EU in 2022

Trips between Europe and the UK and vice versa may well become more expensive for many travellers in 2022 as UK mobile operators bring back roaming charges. However there is some good news for all EU residents.

People look at their mobile phones.
How travellers between the EU and UK could be hit by roaming charges in 2022 (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

EU ‘roams like at home’ at least until 2032

First the good news. The European Union is set to decide to extend free roaming until 2032, so if you have your phone contract registered in an EU country you don’t have to worry about extra charges.

In addition to waiving the charges, the new regulation aims to ensure that travellers benefit of the same quality of service they have at home when travelling within the EU. If they have a 5G contract, for instance, they should also get 5G through the EU if possible. 

Under new rules, travellers should be given information about access to emergency services, including for people with disabilities.

Consumers should also be protected from prohibitive bills caused by inadvertent roaming on satellite networks when travelling on ferries or aeroplanes.

The final text of the new regulation was provisionally agreed in December. The European Parliament and Council will formally endorse it in the coming weeks.

UK companies reintroducing roaming charges this year

And now the bad news for travellers to the EU from the UK

Customers of UK mobile phone operators face higher fees when travelling in Europe this year, as some companies are bringing back roaming charges for calls, text messages and data downloaded during temporary stays in the EU.

This is one of the many consequences of the UK withdrawal from the European Union. Because of Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the EU’s “roam like at home” initiative which was designed to avoid shocking bills after holidays or business trips abroad.

The EU’s roaming regulation allows people travelling in the European Economic Area (EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) to make calls, send texts and browse the web using their regular plans at no extra cost. Switzerland is not part of the scheme, although some mobile phone providers offer roaming deals or special prices to cover travel in Switzerland.

Under EU rules, if the plan’s allowance is exceeded, the roaming fee is also capped at €0.032 per minute of voice call, €0.01 per SMS and €2.5 + VAT per gigabyte downloaded in 2022 (it was €3 + VAT in 2021). The wholesale price networks can charge each other is capped too.

The regulation was adopted for an initial period of five years and is due to expire on June 30th 2022. But the EU is preparing to extend it for another ten years. This time, however, the UK will not be covered. 

Which UK companies are reintroducing charges?

Three major UK network operators this year will reintroduce roaming charges for travels in the EU.

As of January 6th 2022, Vodafone UK will charge customers with monthly plans started after August 11th 2021 £2 per day to roam in the EU. The amount can be reduced to £1 per day by purchasing a pass for 8 or 15 days. Free roaming continues for earlier contracts, Data Xtra plans and for travels to Ireland.  

From March 3rd 2022, EE will also charge £2 per day to roam in 47 European locations, Ireland excluded. The new policy will apply to plans started from July 7th 2021. Alternatively, EE offers the Roam Abroad Pass, which allows roaming abroad for a month for £10. 

Another operator that announced a £2 daily fee to roam in the EEA, except for Ireland, is Three UK. The charge will apply from May 23rd 2022 for plans started or upgraded since October 1st 2021. The data allowance in monthly plans that can be used abroad is also capped at 12 gigabytes. 

O2 already introduced in August last year a 25-gigabyte cap (or less if the plan’s allowance is lower) to data that can be downloaded for free while travelling in Europe. Above that, customers are charged £3.50 per gigabyte. 

Other mobile operators said they have no intention to bring back roaming charges in the short term, but if won’t be surprising if they do so in the future. 

Sue Davies, Head of Consumer Protection Policy at UK consumer organisation Which? was disappointed at the changes and urged the UK and EU to “strike a deal on roaming charges” to stop companies “chipping away at the roaming benefits customers have become used to” and “prevent the return of the excessive charges people used to encounter.” 

By law, charges for mobile data used abroad remain capped at £45 per month and consumers can only continue data roaming only if they actively chose to keep spending. 

What about EU residents travelling to the UK?

In the EU, most mobile phone operators seem keen to continue free roaming for travels to the UK, but some have announced changes too.

In Sweden, Telenor aligned UK’s prices to those of non-EEA countries on May 1st 2021 while still allowing free roaming for some plans. 

Another Swedish operator, Telia, ended free roaming with the UK and Gibraltar on September 13th 2021 giving customers the option to access 200 megabytes of data for SEK 99 per day. People travelling to the UK can also buy a weekly pass allowing to make calls, send texts and download 1 GB of data. 

In Germany Telefónica Deutschland and 1 & 1 have extended current conditions for the UK until at least the end of 2022. However companies may keep other options open depending on negotiations with roaming partners. 

A1 Telekom Austria brought roaming charges back for the UK last June. Customers now have to pay €2.49 per minute for outgoing calls and €1.49 per minute for incoming calls if they are in the UK or Gibraltar. An SMS costs 99 cents and each 100 KB of data €1.49. 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK. 

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