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!!

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


What is the latest on Gibraltar’s Brexit status?

With 2023 approaching and negotiations between Gibraltar, the UK, EU and Spain dragging on for yet another year, what is the latest on Gibraltar and Brexit? Will they reach a deal before New Year and how could it affect life in Gibraltar and Spain?

What is the latest on Gibraltar's Brexit status?

As British politics tries to move on from Brexit, the tiny British territory at the southern tip of Spain, Gibraltar, has been stuck in political limbo since the referendum all the way back in 2016.

Gibraltar, which voted in favour of Remain during the referendum by a whopping 96 percent, was not included in the Brexit deal and has instead relied on a framework agreement made between the UK and Spain on New Year’s Eve in 2020.

After that framework was laid out, it was hoped that the various parties – that is, the Gibraltarian government, Spain, the EU, and the UK – would build on it and quickly find a wider treaty agreement establishing Gibraltar’s place on the European mainland in the post-Brexit world.

It was thought that Gibraltar could enter into a common travel area with the Schengen zone, limiting border controls and essentially creating a custom-made customs arrangement with the EU.

But since then, the negotiation process has stopped and started, with no deal being made and uncertainty dragging on through 2021.

Despite all parties still being relatively optimistic in the spring of 2022, no resolution has been found and 2023 is approaching.

Relying on the framework agreement alone, uncertainty about what exactly the rules are and how they should be implemented have caused confusion and long delays on the border.

The roadblocks

Progress in the multi-faceted negotiations to bash out a treaty and determine Gibraltar’s place in the post-Brexit world have repeatedly stumbled over the same roadblocks.

The main one is the issue of the border. Known in Spain and Gibraltar as La Línea – meaning ‘the line’ in reference to the Spanish town directly across the border, La Línea de la Concepción – the subject of the border and who exactly will patrol it (and on which side) has been a constant sticking point in negotiations.

Madrid and Brussels have approached the British government with a proposal for removing the border fence between Spain and Gibraltar in order to ease freedom of movement, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said in late November 2022. There has been no immediate response from London.

The Gibraltarians refuse to accept Spanish boots on the ground and would prefer the European-wide Frontex border force. The British government feel this would be an impingement on British sovereignty. There’s also been the persistent issues of VAT and corporation tax considerations, as well as the British Navy base and how to police the waters around it.

Though there had been reports that the ongoing British driving license in Spain fiasco had been one of the reasons negotiations had stalled, the British ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliot categorically denied any connection between the issue of Gibraltar’s Brexit deal and British driving licence recognition earlier in November.

READ ALSO: CONFIRMED: Deal on UK licences in Spain agreed but still no exchange date

On different pages?

Not only do the long-standing sticking points remain, but it also seems that the various negotiating parties are on slightly different pages with regards to how exactly each seems to think the negotiations are going.

Judging by reports in the Spanish press in recent weeks, it appears that many in Spain may believe the negotiations are wrapping up and a conclusion could be found by New Year. This perception comes largely from comments made by Pascual Navarro, Spain’s State Secretary to the EU. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Navarro claimed that negotiations have advanced so well that they were now only working ‘on the commas’ of the text – that is to say, tidying it up.

According to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, though negotiations are ongoing, “we’re not there yet”. (Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP)

“No issue that is blocked,” he said. “All of the text is on the table.” A full treaty, he suggested, could be signed “before the end of the year.”

Yet it seems the Gibraltarians don’t quite see the progress as positively as their neighbours. Last week the Gibraltar government, known as No.6, acknowledged Navarro’s optimism.

According to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo however, though negotiations are ongoing, “we’re not there yet”.

No.6 remains positive and hopes for a deal, but in recent weeks has also published technical contingency plans for businesses to prepare for what they are calling a ‘Non-Negotiated Outcome’ – effectively a ‘no-deal’ in normal Brexit jargon.

The UK, however, seem to be somewhere in the middle. Like Navarro, the British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly recently suggested at a House of Commons select committee that only “a relatively small number” of issues remain to be resolved.

However, he also acknowledged the possibility of a non-negotiated outcome. “I think it’s legitimate to look at that [planning for a non-negotiated outcome] as part of our thinking,” Mr Cleverly said. “But obviously we are trying to avoid an NNO.”

Election year

If no deal is found by New Year, that would mean that negotiations drag into 2023 – election years for both Picardo and Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s Prime Minister.

Gibraltar is expected to have elections sometime in the second-half of the year, and Sánchez has to call an election by the end of 2023.

In many ways, Spanish domestic politics has the potential to play a far greater role in Gibraltar’s fate than British politics. In fact, the shadow of Spanish politics looms over these negotiations and the future relationship between Spain and Gibraltar, the UK and Spain, and the UK and EU.

If Sánchez’s PSOE were to lose the election, which according to the latest polling data is the most probable outcome, then it would be likely that Spain’s centre-right party PP would seek to renegotiate, if not outright reject, any deal made.

READ ALSO: Who will win Spain’s 2023 election – Sánchez or Feijóo?

If PP are unable to secure a ruling majority, however, they may well be forced to rely on the far-right party Vox, who have often used nationalist anti-Gibraltar rhetoric as a political weapon. If Vox were to enter into government, which is unlikely but a possibility, it’s safe to say any agreement – if one is even reached before then – would be torn up and the Spanish government would take a much harder line in negotiations.

As the consequences of Brexit churn on in Britain, in Gibraltar uncertainty looms.