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BREXIT

How to send Christmas gifts between Germany and the UK after Brexit

Christmas may seem like a long way off, but if you're planning to send parcels between the UK and Germany, it's a good idea to plan ahead. Here's how to navigate the rules of international post in the first Christmas after Brexit.

A man dressed as Santa delivers post
The Deutsche Post's own 'Father Christmas' delivers some post-Brexit goodies. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Bernd Settnik

According to a recent survey, the majority of Germans get annoyed at the sight of a “premature” Christmas biscuit. While most people are only just getting around to packing away their summer clothes, it’s tough to be confronted by a row of gingerbread snowmen suddenly smiling up at you in Aldi.

While we can definitely relate to that, the realities of Brexit mean that it could pay to think about Christmas a few months earlier this year. (Maybe the owners of these supermarkets had British gift-givers in mind when they stocked the shelves with festive marzipan treats way back in August?)

In the before times, Brits in Germany often enjoyed little parcels from family containing a taste of home – from homemade treats to products not easily available in Europe – but Brexit has made this type of thing a lot more complicated.

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

Since Brexit, it now costs more to send gifts from the EU to the UK, and vice versa, it takes longer, and certain items are unfortunately banned.

Here’s what you need to know when sending gifts between the UK and Germany this Christmas. 

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. 

It’s worth noting that new VAT rules on parcels coming from outside of the EU have meant that some people receiving packages from the UK have had to pay a €6 handling fee and 19 percent VAT in Germany. 

Though gifts under €45 are supposed to be exempt, The Local has heard from some readers that they have been asked to pay the charges regardless – so it’s a good idea to make sure that the present is clearly marked as a gift on the customs form. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why people in Germany are being charged to receive small parcels from outside the EU

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.

Food products

Additional issues come into play if you plan to send food products from the UK to the EU – you may remember the uproar 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 prompted the closure of Marks & Spencer stores in France.

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

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

If you’re unsure, you can find an extensive – and slightly overwhelming – list of the items you can and can’t send from the UK to Germany on the Post Office website here.

EU to UK

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

As with sending parcels the other way, customs declaration must be completed before sending. You can either do this at the post office or fill out the form online on the Deutsche Post / DHL or another carrier’s website if you frank your parcel in advance. 

A man posts a letter in the snow in Magdeburg
A man posts a letter in the snow in Magdeburg. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jens Wolf

If you haven’t posted anything to the UK in a while, be warned: the post-Brexit prices may dampen some of your festive cheer. Since Britain left the EU, it’s been shoved into a new geographically category along with Switzerland – and you should expect Swiss prices to match. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about sending post between Germany and the UK after Brexit

For example, the smallest possible parcel will now cost you €9 rather than €5, while a large parcel weighing up to 20kg will now cost you around €50 to send, rather than €32. (A full list of the new postage prices can be found here.)

Unlike parcels sent to Switzerland, however, there’s no option to pay extra to extradite postage to the UK, so be sure to post any Christmas gifts way in advance of the day itself. 

Food products

Here, at least there’s good news. UK rules are currently less restrictive than EU ones – which means sending food parcels from France 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 that yummy Stollen you picked up at Netto should be accepted by UK customs officials – as long as it’s properly packaged and not joined by a industrial container full of other marzipan-filled treats. 

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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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