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LIVING IN FRANCE

Explained: The post-Brexit rules and charges for sending parcels between UK and France

From ordering things online to gifts from family members, parcels sent between France and the UK are subject to different rules and extra charges since Brexit.

Explained: The post-Brexit rules and charges for sending parcels between UK and France
International parcel deliveries have new rules after Bexit. Photo: AFP

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

There are three main changes; costs, customs declarations and rules on animal products.

Customs declarations

As well as having the appropriate postage, all items apart from documents 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 affects the level of duty in some countries) and a detailed description of what is in it – so birthday or Christmas parcels slightly lose their element of surprise. The form is available to download here.

This rule does not apply to people sending parcels from Northern Ireland.

The same also applies to people sending parcels from the EU to the UK, the customs declaration must be completed before sending, either at the post office or in advance by downloading it from the postal service of the relevant country. All customs declarations being sent to the UK must be completed in English.

Cost

There is also an extra cost to having items sent from the UK to France and it’s split into two parts; a handling fee from the parcel carrier (which is usually €10 for La Poste and varies with other carriers) and extra VAT/TVA charges for non-EU parcels.

If you’re ordering online from a business, the extra charges will usually be added when you pay and normally the sender would pay the fees – however it’s far from uncommon for these not to have been paid in full, in which case the recipient is charged before they can accept the parcel.

These fees can be significant, sometimes more than the value of the item you ordered, so check carefully on all fees before you order.

There have also been numerous reports of people receiving a nice little gift from family in the UK and then being charged significant amounts to collect the parcel. Although it’s a lovely idea for granny to send you a little home-made gift, you might have to suggest that she waits and gives it to you in person.  

Animal products

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 to items carried in person or send by mail.

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

Known as Personal Imports (which also covers items that you bring back in your luggage after a trip to the UK) these have some exemptions including limited amounts of baby milk, food required for medial reasons or limited amounts of honey and certain fish products – find more information here.

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

Online orders

So it’s all pretty complicated and because of this, many UK-based companies have simply stopped accepting orders from customers in the EU, so if you’re buying online it’s best to check in advance whether the company will deliver to France in order to save yourself the hassle of going all the way through the order process before being told that your French address is outside their delivery area.

Member comments

  1. I’m not sure why everyone is so surprised about animal products. Having travelled to the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand none allow you to take in things like meat or cheese. So why should the EU countries be any different. This was one of the many advantages of being a member which we have decided as a nation to reject. So for all those who visit Europe for your holidays and can’t live without your English breakfast, maybe time to consider a “staycation” as there will be no british bacon on the Costas this year.

  2. Why are people surprised about the increased cost of goods? Probably because it was kept quiet and over shadowed by the ‘no tariffs’ deal. Those of us of a certain age can remember paying/collecting quite large sums for customs fees and VAT etc. As a postman it was always a pain in the neck that we had to take cash – no cheques – for the charges and had to face the abuse from the public who invariably didn’t have the cash to hand. The worst were the folks in big houses, with shiny new cars who then spent an hour scouring the house for the cash. Could be quite comical at times.
    So now us expats will be buying most of our stuff on EU websites where postage is often free. So who got the better deal?

  3. Yes same here, late delivery of clothes sent from Asda, (shows e global and a French site with payment in euros), and today they asked for 23 euro for each packet, x 2, €46, so I guess now all the other clothing sites will be the same, wallis, marks etc,

  4. I complained yesterday about a parcel which was sent from UK on the 21st Dec .Tracking was telling me it had left Uk on the 25th and then no further movement To my great delight it has now arrived in my home although tracking has not been updated.TrevorGibbon

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For members

EDUCATION

Fees to class sizes – what you need to know about private schools in France

In many countries, private schools are the preserve of the wealthy elite, but France has a wide network of private schools that are well within the financial reach of ordinary families - James Harrington explains more.

Fees to class sizes - what you need to know about private schools in France

The education system in France has its problems – at the start of the new school year some 4,000 teaching posts were unfilled and the government has launched an ‘emergency plan’ for English language lessons – but there’s no doubting there are wonderful schools and wonderful teachers making every effort to ensure children from aged three to 18 get the education they deserve.

However the country also has a sizeable network of private schools and around 15 percent of French children go to a private school. While some are undoubtedly expensive and elite, others are surprisingly affordable and provide an extra option for parents when deciding on  a school for their children.

Here’s what you need to know; 

Different types

There are two types of private school – sous contrat and hors contrat.

Sous contrat schools, of which there are about 7,500 in France, are part-funded by the state – teachers are paid by the Department of Education, for example – but also charge fees. France’s numerous Catholic schools, or regional language schools are usually sous contrat.

Hors contrat schools – which number about 2,500 – must still meet general education requirements but can choose their teaching methods and have no state funding. Private international schools found in most big cities, such as the American School of Paris, are hors contrat, but still follow mainstream teaching methods.

For comparison, there are around 60,000 state schools in France.

Prices

Yes, there are expensive private schools in France. Sending your child to the exclusive Ecole des Roches Private Boarding School, for example, will set you back more than €12,000 a term – not quite Eton or Winchester-level fees, but still well out of the reach of a large portion of the population. But, like Eton and Winchester, they’re not the norm. 

On average, fees for a day pupil – one who goes home at the end of the school day, rather than one who boards at the school – are in the region of around €2,250 a year. Meals are not included, and are generally charged at a slightly higher daily price than at state schools.

Financial aid, including scholarships, may be available for less well-off families.

READ ALSO French school canteens to cut cheese course as inflation bites

Boarding and hours

A large number of state and private schools offer Monday-Thursday boarding. It is not uncommon for pupils who excel at certain subjects or sports to attend collèges or lycées some distance from home, and board during the week.

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Daily school hours, meanwhile, are broadly similar, with children generally starting their school day at around 8am and finishing soon after 4pm on school days. Collège and lycée pupils also go into school on Wednesday mornings, and some may have classes on a Saturday, too.

Popularity

Smaller class sizes and a reputation for “better” results means that private schools are increasingly popular. The number of French private schools has increased steadily over the last decade, and now 15-20 percent of pupils go to a private establishment of some form. 

On the whole, private schools tend to do better in results league tables – perhaps in part because of the additional investment from parents, but also because class sizes tend to be smaller, which allows for more one-to-one education. Smaller class sizes and more individual attention mean they may also be a better option for children who struggle in big schools.

READ ALSO What kind of school in France is best for my kids?

Qualifications

State schools and sous contrat schools teach to the national curriculum, which leads, in turn, to brevet and baccalaureate qualifications.

In contrast, some hors contrat private schools offer different qualifications, including American High School Diplomas and SATs, British GCSEs and A-Levels, or the international baccalaureate.

Religion

Although many sous contrat schools are Catholic, most readily accept non-Catholic children and are not allowed to indoctrinate the Catholic faith. Hors contrat schools, on the other hand, may include a religious element to their teaching.

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