On 1st January 2021 the UK left the EU single market and customs union to formally complete the Brexit process. Whilst a new EU-UK trade deal was agreed at the 11th hour to enable the UK and the EU to continue to trade goods free of tariffs and quotas, goods being sent from the UK to the 27 EU countries from 1st January are now subject to significantly more customs regulations and checks.
British Gift Box did our best in the early months post-Brexit to continue to offer our customers the ability to order and send our Gift Boxes to their loved ones in EU countries but the new trading relationship between the UK and EU did mean some significant changes for our business and our customers:
1. Banning of food products being imported by EU countries
Not only did we hear surprising reports in the news early on about lorry drivers having their sandwiches confiscated as they crossed over The Channel, it soon emerged that most EU countries had a long list of prohibited products that they will not accept for import from the UK, which includes many of the food products in our gift boxes.
2. Onerous new customs procedures and border checks
With the ending of free movement of goods from the UK to the EU, the carriers are now responsible for collating and presenting customs declarations and documents for every shipment and for all customs compliance. This has created considerable additional processes when we book a shipment, and with 27 countries’ customs regulations to take into consideration, the potential for rejection or return of shipments is much greater.
3. Longer delivery times, more frequent delays and higher shipping costs
The consequence of all the new regulations and complex procedures is that it is more difficult to send things to EU countries, it takes longer to deliver to customer and there are more frequent delays along the way. The additional work and processing has also forced the carriers to increase their shipping charges to European destinations.
4. Unexpected VAT and duty demands for recipients
Whilst the EU-UK trade agreement means that there will be no import tariffs levied on goods being sent from the UK to the EU countries, the EU countries themselves can still charge local VAT on the declared value of goods coming into the country, plus any handling fees. Each EU country has its own VAT regime with different VAT rates…see 2021 VAT rates for EU countries…so the amount that German Customs could levy on a Gift Box could be quite different to the amount that Italian Customs charges on the same Gift Box. Any VAT assessed by a country’s Customs Authority as being due on a shipment is chargeable to the RECIPIENT and will normally have to be paid before the parcel can be delivered to them (normally collected by the carrier on behalf of Customs). It means parcels could be delayed or not delivered if any VAT charge is not paid promptly by the recipient, and any surprise gift is likely to be an unpleasant surprise as recipients are faced with a VAT bill to go with their gift!
Decision to Cease Shipments to EU Countries
Whilst we tried our best to keep shipments to EU countries open for our customers in the first few months of 2021, the prohibition of many of the food products in our Gift Boxes, lower delivery success rates and the poor experience received by our Gift Box recipients in Europe has meant that we have reluctantly decided to cease shipping to all EU countries for the foreseeable future. We will review the situation in Europe regularly and will only open it up again should things improve.