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What do new Brexit rules mean for taking French meat, cheese and wine into the UK?

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
What do new Brexit rules mean for taking French meat, cheese and wine into the UK?
Photo by Ludovic Marin / AFP

It's hardly unknown for holidaymakers to stock up on a little French cheese, wine and sausage while they're here - but what do the new Brexit-related rules due to go into force this week mean for travellers wanting to take food back into the UK?

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Since the end of the Brexit transition period, travellers who want to bring British food products into France 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 France?

But taking French produce into the UK has been unaffected.

This was originally set to change in 2022, but has since been delayed several times. 

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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 French chocolates or French residents bringing gifts of saussison sec or confit de canard for friends and family in the UK. 

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

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 situation with alcohol is a little different, see below.

Due to begin on Tuesday, April 30th are more onerous checks at the UK border which involve "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.

This stage has been repeatedly delayed due to the infrastructure not being ready and importers are frustrated at the lack of advance information on how the system will work in practice.

In order to try and allay concerns, the UK government says it will be taking a "pragmatic" approach to checks, focusing on commercial imports of the "highest risk" goods - which would seem to suggest that individual travellers are not really a priority, at least at first. 

Wine, beer and spirits

French wine, beer and spirits are not affected by the new checks, but have since January 2021 been subject to new limits.

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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, UK have come up with 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.

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Comments (4)

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Plastic Seinomarin 2024/04/30 00:09
gov.uk currently (29 April @2304 BST) advises as follows re food from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Faroe Islands and Greenland:- You can bring in the following for personal use: dairy fish meat (there are restrictions if you’re bringing in more than 2kgs of pork or pork products) other animal products - for example, eggs and honey fruit vegetables nuts and seeds See https://www.gov.uk/bringing-food-into-great-britain/print
Deb 2024/04/29 21:21
Hi I thought the regulations were for commercial purposes not individual consumption?
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 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.
  • 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.

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