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How to post packages between Austria and the UK post-Brexit

Sending and receiving parcels between the UK and Austria has become a little more difficult since Brexit. Here's what you need to know.

Parcels being delivered by DHL
Parcel carrier Turan Oeztekin of the Deutsche Post DHL Group logistics and postal services company sorts parcels in his van as he delivers parcels in a residential area in Dortmund, western Germany, on December 10, 2020. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

One of the first things many people will have noticed since the United Kingdom left the European Union is it is no longer possible to send and receive parcels between the UK and Austria without filling in a customs form. 

READ MORE: Austria to investigate ‘flood of complaints’ against parcel delivery companies

New rules that came into force on January 1st mean new taxes and charges now apply to almost everything that goes back and forth between the two, including gifts, second hand items, products bought on Amazon or eBay and from private sellers.

So is there any way to avoid paying customs charges and extra tax? 

Gifts valued up to a certain amount do not attract charges

If people in the UK are sending you a parcel with a gift worth under €45 or £39, they should say “No commercial value”or “Birthday gift” or “For private use only”, on the customs form and state the value is below the threshold. 

But gifts worth more than this amount are eligible for VAT and, if valued at over £135 (€156) customs duties, with the recipient receiving the bill.

Sending parcels as gifts to the UK

When sending parcels to the UK from Austria, the sender should fill in a customs form, which you can find here

You should print out two copies of the completed form, and hand it in when sending the package. 

Importing packages from the UK into Austria 

When importing packages for a business from the UK into Austria, the shipping company  may ask you for the correct HS codes, which can be found on the UK government’s website.

You can find out more about  importing goods here.

Exporting goods from the UK to Austria

In order to give businesses time to adapt, the UK government has decided that imports into the UK from the EU can operate as normal until 1st April. From that date, under current plans, all items of animal origin such as meat, honey, milk or egg products, as well as regulated plants and plant products, will require full documentation and, where necessary, veterinary certificates to be sold in the UK.

From 1st July, all companies exporting to the UK will be required to fill out full customs declarations and goods could be subjected to physical checks at new UK customs centres.

So from 1st April, exporting will become more complicated. UK import clearance can only be handled by a UK-based company. The UK company must apply for a UK EORI number and carry out an import declaration.

All others have to hire a British “indirect representative” to carry out the import process. Until the end of June 2021, the import declaration can be made as “entry in the declarant’s records” and a complete import declaration can be submitted later.

You can find out more here

How are businesses finding the post-Brexit world? 

The Local spoke to John Szewczuk, the owner of Bobby’s Foodstore in Vienna, which sells British and American foodstuffs.

He said he had been unable to import any British goods since Brexit until March, and was mainly relying on goods he had stockpiled until December. 

Situation ‘really bad’

Szewczuk said the situation since January had been “really bad”. Due to a lack of correct labelling he has been unable to import any items containing animal products, including milk and butter, from the UK since January.

He received his first post-Brexit shipment of Marmite and tea in March, and said he had to pay an extra 10 to 15 percent in new customs charges for the products. He is now running low on cereals including Rice Krispies and All Bran. 

Due to the butter or milk content, he is currently unable to import chocolate, biscuits or shortbread from the UK.

Szewczuk says these requirements were already in place for the American products he imports, but these have labelling which allow them to be imported into the EU.

He said in the UK, even large firms such as Nestle have yet to introduce labelling which would allow the goods to be imported.

He has been told the situation should improve around the end of March. 

“Learning curve”

Richard Holmes, who makes and sells British sausages from a company called Britwurst in Vienna, said he had found it a “learning curve” trying to import a pea husk ingredient from the UK for his gluten-free bangers.

First his shipping company asked him to provide the HS codes, which he had to look up on the government website.

He says his shipping company admitted they were confused about the new regulations, and were behind on deliveries to Europe due to the new paperwork.

One of his two packages was delivered without problems, attracting a €8 customs charge and €10 admin fee on goods worth £35.

The second parcel was sent without the customs paperwork and is being held at the post office. He has not managed to collect it. 

He said he was looking into buying his ingredients from France in future.

Impact on research

Student researcher Victoria James said the changes in import rules had affected her research into immunology, as essential reagents, which she could only buy from the UK, were getting held up in customs, leaving her unable to plan experiments. She said she believed this problem would be affecting many science researchers in Europe. 

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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