Brexit For Members

How the UK's delayed Brexit checks on fresh food from EU could affect you

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
How the UK's delayed Brexit checks on fresh food from EU could affect you
Gifts of Spanish Jamon Iberico may be subject to restrictions. Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

The UK's planned Brexit-related checks around bringing fresh food into the UK from the EU have been delayed again. Here's what they mean for those wanting to bring produce into Britain.


Since the end of the Brexit transition period, travellers who want to bring British food products into the EU have faced strict controls and outright bans on certain substances, from a ham sandwich for the journey to bringing in a little gift of chocolate or your mum's home baking.

READ ALSO Bovril, tea and ham sandwiches - what are the rules on taking food from the UK into the EU?

But taking produce into the UK has been unaffected.

This was originally set to change in 2022, but has since been delayed several times. The latest indication was that checks were finally to begin from October 31st, 2023.

However reports in the UK media in early August suggest the British government has decided to delay bringing in the checks once again over concerns the extra red tape could fuel further inflation.

The Financial Times reported that an official announcement on the further delay was imminent. 

Industry representatives in the UK welcomed the new delay.

“The government has made the right decision to postpone. UK food retailers, hospitality businesses and consumers were in line for major disruption because many EU food-producing businesses supplying into the UK are not ready for the new requirements,” said Shane Brennan, the chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation.


What's the point of the checks?

As with food checks on entry to the EU, the main thrust is food businesses and people importing products for commercial reasons - but they can also affect individual travellers, whether that is holidaymakers taking home a box of Italian chocolates or French residents bringing some cheese for friends and family in the UK. 

Since January 1st 2022 full customs declarations and customs controls has been imposed at the UK border - but this affects only business imports, not private individuals such as returning holidaymakers.

It is not clear when the new set of rules will come into force.

The new rules as written refer to all imports - not only those for commercial purposes - so would cover holidaymakers taking home a little German sausage or French smelly cheese as a souvenir, or Brits living in the EU bringing gifts of jamon iberico or Austrian cakes to friends and family in the UK.

The situation with alcohol is a little different, see below.

Under the old system

If you're travelling from the EU to the UK before the new rules come into force there is no limit on bringing in food products as long as they are for your personal use or as gifts, and you are not intending to sell them.

Under the UK's new Brexit checks (when they are finally brought in)

Once the new rules are in place, food products entering the UK can be subject to checks. The UK government says that it is phasing in checks in a two-stage approach, and initial checks will be 'targeted' - meaning that not everyone entering the UK will be checked.

It's likely that checks on individuals such as families arriving by car at Dover or people getting off the Eurostar in London will be operated on a very light-touch basis.

However, the phyto-sanitary rules potentially affect animal products - so that would include meat, fish, eggs and dairy or any food products that contain any of those ingredients such as chocolate, cheese or jelly sweets.

Anyone who wants to import these products to the UK on a commercial basis will need a veterinary certificate. Since these are impractical for individual travellers, it amounts to a de facto ban on bringing these products into the UK.


The first phase of the checks is the requirement to have animal health certificates for imports.

The second phase

Once the first phase is rolled out a second phase of checks starts, which involves "documentary and risk-based identity and physical checks on medium-risk animal and plant products and high-risk food and feed of non-animal origin from the EU".

This concerns the same type of products as above, but will involve physical checks of the items, rather than just a check of the paperwork.

Third phase

The final phase of paperwork, safety and security declarations for EU imports will come into force once the second phase has been complete but as explained earlier the date is not yet known.


Wine, beer and spirits

Wine, beer and spirits are not affected by the latest announcement, but have since January 2021 been subject to new limits.

Bringing to an end the cherished tradition of the booze cruise, there are now strict limits on the amount of wine, beer, spirits and tobacco that can be brought into the UK from the EU.

The amounts still allow for bringing a few gifts into the UK, but gone are the days of taking the car over to Calais and loading up the boot in one of the many French wine warehouses.

You can find full details on allowances HERE

How strict will these checks be?

It's difficult to tell whether the regime of checks will be as strict as for people entering the EU from the UK, but the indications are that they probably won't, especially for holidaymakers.

Mindful of long queues already seen at the border since Brexit, the latest announcement from UK authorities mentions several protocols designed to keep traffic moving - such as building special centres for checks for commercial verification away from the main port areas.

This suggests that checks for individuals will be light-touch, but they cannot be ruled out. If you are found to be in possession of foodstuffs without the correct paperwork, the items will be confiscated.

The introduction of these checks has already been delayed several times, so it's possible that they could be delayed again.


Comments (3)

Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Anonymous 2022/01/05 15:16
Another cock up from the Brexit Team - There was absolutely NO benefit in leaving the EU, but I am sure someone is making a tidy profit out of everyone else’s misery.
Anonymous 2022/01/03 18:33
There obviously IS benefit to EU membership - the Single Market - which the UK government opted to leave, in a hard brexit, so it can hardly expect to keep the benefits of it. Johnson explicitly proposed ‘cakeism’ for the UK (eat your cake/cheese and keep it). The EU was never going to give it to him, and didn’t. IMHO All these problems are due to the disingenuous Leave campaign and then the UK government opting for a hard brexit, that few voted for. Recent polls of UK opinion show considerable ‘buyers regret’ in those who voted Leave.
  • Anonymous 2022/01/04 18:00
    This is not a ‘hard brexit’ by any stretch of the imagination. The unfortunate thing is that this a typical Politicians mess. We have ended up with the worst of both worlds, still paying for the EU and without the ‘Benefits’ of membership. I voted to leave, but to me, Leave meant Leave totally, and not this Halfway house. It was pie in the sky to imagine that the EU would wave us a fond farewell. Their aim is to protect the Eurocrats self interest at all cost and that is expansionism at any cost. The regret we feel is that we have been sold down the river by our Political rulers which was inevitable once our High Court decided that our democratic vote should be further scrutinised by the House of Parliament
Anonymous 2021/12/29 10:40
It's a shame . The EU was offered full mutual recognition for these food products but refused as they're desperately trying to demonstrate there's any benefit to EU membership.

See Also