How the Brexit deal has changed daily lives of British residents in Europe

Brexit has brought in lots of big changes to international trade and global politics, but it is also impacting the daily lives of British residents in Europe in numerous small but significant ways.

How the Brexit deal has changed daily lives of British residents in Europe
Parcel orders and deliveries have been affected by the Brexit deal. AFP

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’re bound to be aware of the major ways that Brexit has affected Brits across Europe.

In the run-up to Britain’s exit from the single market, UK citizens have had to register with immigration offices or apply for new residency permits. People have had to exchange UK driving licences whilst many have through their own choice applied for citizenship of an EU country. 

Less than a week after the end of the transition period, however, it’s becoming clear that Brexit is more than just an headache and hurdle for residency.

Whether it’s sending a belated Christmas gift to relatives in Britain or picking up snacks from the supermarket, Brexit is already affecting daily lives of Britons in several small but significant ways.

Crumpets, anyone?

In an occasion reminiscent of the great Marmite shortages of 2016, a number of fresh food imports from the UK have been diverted from their EU destinations, reducing the availability of certain beloved British food products in supermarkets across the continent.   

At an M&S food hall in Paris’ Porte Maillot, one shopper lamented the “great M&S post-Brexit sandwich famine of 2021” as they were greeted by empty shelves when they came to pick up their groceries. The shortages have hit a number of M&S stores across the French capital, apparently due to issues with UK deliveries.

“Because of new government regulations on trade between the UK and France, we received no shipments from the UK today,” a sign in French informed shoppers.

“I rely on M&S for the curry boxes,” one Paris resident said on Twitter. “Please tell me they still stock the curry boxes and the salt and vinegar crisps.” 

Animal products

The UK government has spent months promising frictionless trade with the EU after Brexit, but while UK businesses may be able to export to the EU with zero tariffs under the new trade deal, the bureaucratic obstacles for exporters have increased significantly.

In particular, anyone bringing animal products such as meat and dairy into the EU will now need a veterinary certificate to prove that the food conforms to EU regulations. Certificates are also needed to being animal products from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.

According to Stena Line ferries, some exporters immediately fell afoul of the new rules. On the January 1st – the day after the end of the Brexit transition – six freight loads of stock headed for Ireland were turned away from the port of Holyhead in Wales due to not having the correct paperwork.

In 2017, just a year after the Brexit vote, the UK government boasted in a press release that it had received a “Brexit boost” to its food exports, with the sector netting £22bn for the UK economy over the course of the year. However, four of the country’s five top export destinations that year – the Netherlands, Germany, France and Ireland – were all EU member states, accounting for almost half (£9bn) of this total. 

To make matters worse, at least four of the country’s major food exports – salmon, shellfish, cheese and chocolate – are perishable, animal-derived products, meaning Brits in the EU may be seeing a lot more Irish cheddar and Norwegian salmon on the shelves this year, rather than their British counterparts. 

I stream, EU stream

Anyone hoping to pass the long winter lockdown and ease their Brexit woes with some classic episodes of Only Fools and Horses may just be disappointed when they log in to their streaming sites this January.   

Since the start of 2021, Britain’s exit from the ‘digital single market’ means that Brits have been unable to access to their favourite British shows on streaming services such as Sky and Amazon Prime while living or travelling in the EU. 

On Sky’s website, the company warned users: “From 1 January 2021, you won’t be entitled to stream Sky outside the UK using your Sky Go, Sky Kids, Sky Sports, Sky Sports Mobile TV and Sky Sports Box Office apps.”

The service previously enabled users with a Sky account to access content on their tablets and phones while travelling with the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes EU countries as well as Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. 

Amazon Prime, which also offers streaming services, informed Brits in December that “UK customers such as yourself will no longer have access to the full UK catalogue while travelling to EU countries.” 

The changes are all down to the revocation of the EU Portability Regulation – a law enabling digital content such as television programmes to be accessed throughout the EEA. 

A note on the UK government website explained: “The EU Portability Regulation will cease to apply to UK-EEA travel from 1 January 2021. In the UK, the regulation will be revoked. 

“Online content service providers will not be required under the regulation to provide content ordinarily available in the UK to a UK customer who is temporarily present in any other EEA member state.

“This will not prevent service providers offering cross-border portability to their customers on a voluntary basis, but to do so they will need the permission of the owners of the content they provide.”

For Netflix customers, however, things will remain very much the same as before. They will still be able to access its content anywhere in the world, but content will be localised to each country, meaning that French content will be available in France, German content in Germany, and so on.

In reality European Netflix sites have a large amount of Hollywood blockbusters and other English-language content, but their titles are often translated into the local language so you will need to look more carefully as you scroll.

Deliveries and VAT faffs 

Thanks to the UK no longer falling within the EU postal zone, sending a parcel to friends or family back home has just become a lot more expensive. 

In Germany, for example, delivery firm DHL has now moved the UK into a new zone alongside Switzerland, with the price for sending small to medium packages rising from €4 to €10. The cost of posting larger parcels is now as much as €17. 

In addition, anyone sending goods to or from the UK will now have to fill in a customs declaration stating what their parcel contains, the value of the contents, and where the items were originally produced. 

For online sellers and marketplaces such as eBay, things have become more complicated still: under the UK’s new VAT rules, either EU sellers or UK buyers will now have to pay UK VAT on items shipped to Britain, depending on the cost of the product. For sales under £135, the tax burden will fall on sellers, while UK residents will be liable to pay the tax on more valuable items over £135. 

According to the Financial Times, the added bureaucracy is already causing “chaos” for e-commerce businesses and their customers. Speaking to FT reporter Chris Giles, one Dutch bicycle parts company called the changes “ludicrous”, adding that they “would now ship to every country in the world… except the UK”. 

Scandinavian Outdoor, a clothing and equipment retailer based in Finland, halted sales to Britain altogether.

“Ordering will be possible as soon as our UK VAT-registration and the overall process of selling to the UK post-Brexit has been sorted out!” says a message on its website.

Many shipping companies have begun passing on extra administrative costs to clients, including France's La Poste, which has added “supplemental fees” for e-commerce retailers that can be passed on to clients.

Many users in the EU have reported that smaller UK-based sites are simply no longer shipping to Europe.

Upmarket British retailer Fortnum & Mason have had to suspend deliveries to European countries much to the dismay of some customers in the EU.

The company blamed the decision on “Brexit restrictions”.


Travel problems

Whilst much of the recent chaos around travel from the UK to the EU has been linked to a new variant of Covid that has run wild in the UK, Brexit has helped create a perfect storm of almost pandemonium with stories of Britons denied re-entry to their home countries in the EU because they had the wrong residency card.

British embassies have tried to act to ensure EU immigration officials allow Britons to return home but if The Local's email inbox is anything to go by, the travel problems and concerns will persist for weeks if not months to come.

Some British residents in the EU who don't have a post Brexit residency permit or indeed any residency permit face having to gather to gather a file of evidence including bills and tax receipts to prove to immigration officials where they live. Many are simply foregoing travel altogether for fear of not being allowed home.

Hundreds of British residents have had their passports stamped with an entry date. Despite British officials telling them not to worry, there are concerns this stamp will cause issues, given that British travellers can only stay in the Schengen area for 90 days in every 180-day period.

Free to roam? 

Since leaving the single market at the end of last year, the UK is no longer included in the the EU’s Roaming Regulation – the 2017 law that enabled customers to use their existing mobile contracts for free across Europe. In theory, this means that roaming charges could be hiked up for EU-based Brits who still have a UK SIM card – but this seems unlikely to happen overnight. 

At the start of the year, the UK’s major phone operators – Three, EE, 02 and Vodafone – revealed they had no plans to reintroduce roaming costs across the EU as a result of Brexit.

“Our customers enjoy inclusive roaming in Europe and beyond, and we don't have any plans to change this based on the Brexit outcome,” a spokesperson for EE told the BBC. “So our customers going on holiday and travelling in the EU will continue to enjoy inclusive roaming.”

Nevertheless, there are early signs that these operators will be getting a lot stricter about their fair usage policies, which state that UK customers should be ‘roaming’ for no more than 62 days in a four-month period. 

A number of Vodafone customers in the EU have allegedly received messages from the company warning them not to exceed this limit. 

“Up until now, we’ve only monitored usage abroad and not applied extra charges to customers who use their phone abroad for long periods of time (or even permanently),” the company said. “However, unfortunately we now need to apply charges if you use your phone abroad for a prolonged period of time.” 

From January 18th, the network provider plans to send text or email alerts to long-term roamers if they run over the 62-day limit. After this, customers in the EU could be liable for extra charges. 

Collies crossing the Border

With the UK no longer participating the EU Pet Passport scheme, four-legged friends travelling from the UK to the EU will now need an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) from an accredited vet in order to make it across the border. Unlike the Pet Passport, a new AHC is required for each trip.

However, travelling from the EU to the UK with a pet will be less complicated (for now), since the UK has said it will continue to accept EU pet passports issued before January 2021 for the time being. This means anyone with a valid Pet Passport can still travel to Britain with little trouble, as long as their pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. 

This could, however, be subject to change in the future. 

Member comments

  1. Every article in every paper on mobile roaming charges is always exclusively focused on what the English carriers are doing (Vodafone, EE etc). On January 4th, I had a call with my colleague who has an English mobile number, and was charged quite a bit, blew out my prepaid balance. All calls within the EU are included in my monthly plan, but the UK which was included is now no longer, and costs as much as Switzerland.

    This is actually a big deal, because everyone in Europe will now be disposed to make less calls to the UK than before. Coupled with the new import and export hassles and payments, we are all looking for alternative markets for
    our products, and alternative sources for things we used to buy from the UK.

    Trade friction really IS a thing. In spite of all the BS from governments, we are not hamsters running around in the wheels they have planned for us. We do NOT have to buy or sell things to the UK as we did before if we consider the hassle not worth it. It IS a pain to change your supply chain arrangements, and marketing, but once you have done so it is hard to go back.

  2. A lot of negativity out there and let´s be honest none of the things mentioned are really impactful. More like inconvenience. Sounds like a lot of self-entitled ninnies. Roaming charges, postage and TV access are those the real issues to focus on….None of us were forced to live in an EU country and the quality of life benefits out weigh not being to access the full range of M&S produce….

  3. In the last 2days we received a parcel of cosmetics costing 35 euros
    with a charge paid to DHL of 28 euros import tax can this be right!

  4. Nice to see the brexit trolls on here. People who had what they wanted before brexit take away from those who make different choices.Wait till they try booking cheap ruin air flights to spain and pay more and wait longer, they’ll soon be gammoaning. The uk will re join in 5 years, 100%.

  5. We all knew this was coming. It’s hard for people with families back in the UK, but all these problems are just that and really shouldn’t be a surprise. And if you live in Europe, what in god’s name do you need British food for?

    P.S. Irish tea is better than english, get it from them.

  6. Can we have any more information regarding exchanging driving licences? The system has stopped again despite saying it would open on Jan 1st because there is a lack of reciprocity for French licence holders in uk. This will impact many, many thousands and the clock is running if UK licences are to become invalid in December as is currently the case.

  7. An interesting side note for anyone who sells on & offers shipping to EU Countries. Even with it being known that the UK was leaving Jan 1st, for their EU shipping choices it is still “EU plus UK”. If you want to only send to EU Countries, only 6 of them are listed. Ebay really don’t get what just happened. And trying to contact them to point this out? Good Luck!

  8. If your pet has an EU Pet Passport (issued pre 2021) then getting into the UK remains the same as before, and you do not also need a UK AHC to return to France.

  9. It is what it is. Many of the problems are due to the UK Government’s ideology of not being controlled by the EU such as agriculture standards. This means now that the UK is treated as a 2rd country just like USA. You have EU truck drivers who are told to get paperwork from one place & it takes 2 days. Then sent to another lorry park which is too busy. By the time they get access, fined 300 pounds for an expired permit. Forced to queue in the rain to get permits etc. It’s a mess. If only the UK Government had 4 years to prepare. Oh! They did!!

  10. It is what it is. Many of the problems are due to the UK Government’s ideology of not being controlled by the EU such as agriculture standards. This means now that the UK is treated as a 2rd country just like USA. You have EU truck drivers who are told to get paperwork from one place & it takes 2 days. Then sent to another lorry park which is too busy. By the time they get access, fined 300 pounds for an expired permit. Forced to queue in the rain to get permits etc. It’s a mess. If only the UK Government had 4 years to prepare. Oh! They did!!

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Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”