France's public accounts minister Olivier Dussopt visited the Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord to check the new infrastructure that is being installed to prepare for the UK's exit from the European Union.
Already in place – although they will not be in use until the end of the transition period on December 31st – are duty free tax terminals.
Using these terminals, British travellers will be able to attend a refund of the VAT (known as TVA in France) paid on any goods bought in France over the value of €175. The same will apply to French shoppers in the UK.
“This system will facilitate the work of customs officers and should be generalised on both sides of the Channel, according to the principle of reciprocity that exists between the two countries,” said Dussopt.
??♂️????♀️En visite à Gare du Nord pour constater l’amélioration des conditions de travail des agents @douane_france et la préparation concrète au #Brexit. L’occasion de redire toute ma reconnaissance aux femmes et aux hommes mobilisés. pic.twitter.com/pv01jUiHYx
— Olivier Dussopt (@olivierdussopt) July 31, 2020
In addition to the tax refunds, staff at Gare du Nord are also working on the infrastructure for the extra passport and customs checks that will be necessary for arrivals from the UK from 2021.
France's customs director Isabelle Braun-Lemaire said: “Customs formalities will be introduced for all foreigners and European citizens, as well as controls identical to those that must be carried out at an airport when travelling outside the European Union.”
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As well as additional passport controls, she added: “People returning from the UK will have to declare, under penalty of a fine, any goods worth more than €450.”
The same restrictions will apply in the other direction and in a blow to the tradition of a British booze cruise, there will also be limits on the amount of alcohol that can be brought into the UK.
If travelling within the EU there is no limit to the amount of alcohol you can take over the border as long as it is for your own personal consumption or to be given as a gift – although customs officers are likely to question you if you are taking more than 90 litres of wine (120 standard size bottles).
However this will change after December 31st and unless the UK and France come to an agreement the limit is likely to default to the current restriction for non EU countries, which stands at four litres of wine (six bottles) or 16 litres of beer or 1 litre of spirits.
At Gare du Nord an expanded checks area is being prepared, with new security booths and an extra queuing area.
One customs officer told French newspaper Le Parisian: “With the multiplication of control procedures, the queues are likely to drag on as long in France as in England.”
The summer of 2019 saw delays of up to six hours as Gare du Nord staff staged a 'work to rule' protest which they said mirrored the extra checks they would have to make on everyone after Brexit.