EU red tape threatens Christmas – post-Brexit rules are a tax on giving presents


Time is tight if posting festive gifts to family and friends. There’s no time to lose, with Royal Mail warning that UK and international deliveries will be hit by “ongoing Covid restrictions, reduced air and freight capacity, high volumes and winter weather conditions”. That is not the only worry.

Sending gifts to the EU is trickier due to new Brexit rules, and you could get hit by unexpected fees and delays, warned Hannah Ward at British Corner Shop, which ships UK food worldwide.

“You will need to attach a customs declaration, even if your package is a gift. Failing to do so can mean your package is delayed or returned.”

You need to include a detailed description of what’s inside, and its weight and value.

You can get customs declaration forms (CN22 for items up to £270 or CN23 for items above that) from your local Post Office.

If sending a package with multiple gifts for different people, you’ll need to declare this, too. “Gifts should be individually wrapped, addressed to different people, and given individual values to avoid extra charges and returns,” Ward added.

If any part of your gift originates from outside the EU, which includes the UK, it will be subject to VAT and customs fees.

Get it wrong and you will be spreading Christmas confusion instead of cheer. “It is the recipient who pays the extra charges,” Ward said.

It is the same when receiving parcels from the EU. “If they cost more than £39, you need to pay VAT to receive your gift.”

New Brexit rules have made sending food and drink items more complicated, especially for meat, dairy, eggs and fish. Rules vary according to the country, for example, you can no longer send a box of British chocolates to France due to its milk content.

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Food gifts must be in the original manufacturer’s packaging with all ingredients listed, and you cannot send anything perishable, including home-baked goods.

There are strict size restrictions and packaging requirements when sending alcohol, Ward added. “Sending beverages containing more than 24 percent alcohol, like gin, vodka or whisky, isn’t allowed. For anything under 24 per cent, like beer or wine, there are size restrictions and packaging requirements.”

Nearly half of us are worried about Christmas gifts not arriving in time, according to research from Pack & Send, and chief executive Mike Ryan warned: “A last-minute panic could make things even harder for logistics firms.”

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For UK second-class cards and parcels, you have until December 18 to send by Royal Mail domestic delivery.

The deadline is December 21 for first-class UK mail. Miss that deadline and your only option is to send it next day by Royal Mail’s special delivery guaranteed service.

The deadline has already passed for using standard “international economy” post, even to western Europe.

You can find all of Royal Mail’s delivery deadlines at

If running late, consider a private packaging service. Pack & Send’s last shipping dates are December 6 for non-European countries, December 13 for Europe and December 23 for domestic shipments.

Again, do not take any chances, Ryan warned. “Deliveries to the EU will take longer than previous years due to increased customs administration and many countries going into another lockdown.”


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