Europe & You newsletter: Government’s no-deal Brexit letters to Brits around Europe cause alarm

Brits around Europe are steadily receiving communication from the British government regarding the impact of a no-deal Brexit, but far from reassuring the recipients the letters are causing alarm.

Europe & You newsletter: Government's no-deal Brexit letters to Brits around Europe cause alarm
Photo: AFP/Jean-Jacques Ganon

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Hi readers,

Have you been receiving letters from the British government either urging you to 'get ready for Brexit' or advising you what you need to do to ensure you have health cover in future?

Boris Johnson's government is desperately trying to get word out to the 1.3 million Brits in the EU including  200,000 pensioners that they need to take action to prepare for Brexit on “October 31st”.

“The UK is leaving the European Union (EU) on 31 October 2019,” reads a letter sent from the NHS Business Services Authority that is aimed at warning British pensioners what they need to do to ensure their health costs will be covered in future.

The government announced this week that their healthcare costs would be covered for up to six months in a no-deal Brexit.

“The UK Government is working hard to secure a deal covering healthcare arrangements, but this letter provides guidance as to what you should do now if the UK leaves the EU without securing a deal.”


“You should be ready for possible permanent changes to how you access healthcare if there is a no- deal Brexit,” British pensioners are warned before being advised on what action to take including possibly getting private health insurance.

But the letters are been causing a certain amount of stress for pensioners, many of whom are receiving treatment for serious ongoing health conditions.

The healthcare one is very very unclear and is causing alarm (again!),” Kalba Meadows from British in Europe and France Rights tells The Local.

“It's not at all clear about the six month transitional arrangement and anyone reading it who isn't following the updates is likely to panic when the read this sentence “The UK’s participation in the S1 scheme will continue until at least 31 October 2019.”

“I think it's a great shame – and really concerning – that the government's communications on health care haven't been clearer – it's such a fundamental issue for people, and especially those with serious health conditions, and the Department of Health and Social Care needs to be sensitive to that.

“It should be the UK government's job to inform and communicate – instead we find ourselves doing it for them in order to mitigate the panic and the damage that letters like this are inadvertently doing,” said Meadows.

If you are pensioner on the S1 scheme and haven't yet received a letter from the British government you can read it HERE.

If you wanted to know why the letters and indeed the government's announcement have caused such anger among recipients then our columnist Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain explains.

“Like thousands of others, I moved to Spain expecting free healthcare for life. I paid into the National Health Service for 38 years. I did not envisage paying for private healthcare or prescription charges in my retirement,” she writes.

“National Health Insurance has that name for a reason. When you pay into an insurance policy for years, you expect payback when it’s required. Whether I spend my retirement in Bradford, Bournemouth or Barcelona should not make any difference to the cover I receive.” For more from Sue Wilson click on the link below.

OPINION: I moved to Spain expecting free health cover for life

All Brits in France and around the EU are also being sent letters from the ambassador telling them to get ready for Brexit. It includes instructions for what to do in the event of a no deal Brexit including that they will need to apply for residency within six months.

And the government is also sending out a third letter outlining that if the UK leaves without a deal, pensions for those in the EU will be uprated for a further 3 years.

Here are three other Brexit related articles from our sites this week that might interest you.

Thanks for reading.

Remember to email me your questions at [email protected]


Managing Editor, The Local Europe




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Summer travel between Spain and the UK: What can I not pack in my suitcase?

If you're travelling between Spain and the UK this summer and want to take some of your favourite treats with you, here's what you should know about the food and drink rules post-Brexit so you don't get caught out by customs.

Summer travel between Spain and the UK: What can I not pack in my suitcase?

Flying to the UK from Spain

For those flying to the UK from Spain, the rules are relatively lax.

Note, if you’re spending the summer in Northern Ireland there are different rules on food and animal products. Find them here. 

You can bring the following products from Spain into the UK without worrying about any restrictions:

  • bread, but not sandwiches filled with meat or dairy products
  • cakes without fresh cream
  • biscuits
  • chocolate and confectionery, but not those made with unprocessed dairy ingredients
  • pasta and noodles, but not if mixed or filled with meat or meat products
  • packaged soup, stocks and flavourings
  • processed and packaged plant products, such as packaged salads and frozen plant material
  • food supplements containing small amounts of an animal product, such as fish oil capsules

Meat, dairy, fish and animal products

If, like many of us, you have friends and family already putting in their orders for stocks of jamón serrano, know that the rules on bringing meat, dairy, fish and other animal products into the UK are relatively relaxed. You can bring in meat, fish, dairy and other animal products as long as they’re from the EU, so your jamón and Manchego cheese are safe. 

what food can and cannot bring between spain and the uk

You will still be able to bring cured Spanish ham from Spain to the UK. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

Alcohol allowance

For many, the big one, but there are some limits on how much booze you can bring in from Spain and the EU more generally. How much you can bring depends on the type of alcohol, so get up to speed on the limits and make sure your favourite Rioja and Cava aren’t taken off you or heavily taxed:


  • beer – 42 litres
  • still wine – 18 litres
  • spirits and other liquors over 22 percent alcohol – 4 litres
  • sparkling wine, fortified wine (port, sherry etc) and other alcoholic drinks up to 22 percent alcohol (not including beer or still wine) – 9 litres

It’s worth knowing that you can split your allowance, for example you could bring 4.5 litres of fortified wine and 2 litres of spirits (both half of your allowance).

Flying into Spain from the UK

While British borders are laid back when it comes to travelling with food and drink, the rules are much tougher when entering the EU from the UK.

Most importantly, tea bags – longed for by Brits the world over – are allowed. Marmite, which is vegan, is also fine to bring but Bovril, which contains beef stock, is not.

Travellers arriving in the EU from Britain can, according to the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC), bring the following quantities of alcohol, so if you fancy a British tipple in Spain over the summer such as Pimm’s it is possible, within reason: 4 litres of still wine and 16 litres of beer, 1 litre of spirits, or 2 litres of sparkling or fortified wine.

If you arrive in the EU from a non-EU country, you cannot bring any meat or dairy products with you. That means no Wensleydale, no Cornish Brie in your ploughman’s lunch and no British bacon to enjoy in Spain for English breakfast fry-ups.

Ploughman's lunch

British cheese for your Ploughman’s lunch is not allowed. Photo: Glammmur / WikiCommons

The EU’s strict rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products technically come under these rules, so even your custard powder to make rhubarb fool or bars of your favourite chocolate are now banned, because of the milk.

Be aware, however Spanish customs do not always check your suitcase, so you may be able to get away with bringing in a small packaged item such as a chocolate bar, without it being confiscated. 

Similarly, if you’re planning on asking a friend or family member to bring you over some sweets, cakes, or other home comforts, be aware that the ban includes all products that contain any meat or dairy as an ingredient – which includes items like chocolate, fudge, and some sweets (because of the gelatine.)

You are allowed to bring a small quantity of fruit and vegetables as well as eggs, some egg products, and honey. Restricted quantities of fish or fish products are also allowed: eviscerated fresh fish products (gutted, with all the organs removed), and processed fishery products are allowed up to 20 kg or 1 fish, so you can enjoy some Scottish smoked salmon in Spain over the summer if you want.

If you’re travelling with kids, note that powdered infant milk, infant food and specifically required medical foods are allowed up to 2kg, as is the case for pet foods. 

Clotted cream for cream teas won’t be allowed to be brought into Spain. Photo: Tuxraider reloaded / WikiCommons

This means that even the classic British summertime favourites such as sausage rolls, scotch eggs, packaged trifle and clotted cream for your cream tea will not be allowed because of the meat and dairy they contain.

It is worth noting that these strict EU rules also apply to sending products by post, so if you were hoping to get around the newly applicable legislation by having someone send you a delivery some Devon fudge, they will probably be intercepted and confiscated by Spain’s postal service, unfortunately. 

READ ALSO: Are there limits on bringing medicines into Spain?