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How to send Christmas gifts between Germany and the UK after Brexit

Christmas may seem like a long way off, but if you're planning to send parcels between the UK and Germany, it's a good idea to plan ahead. Here's how to navigate the rules of international post in the first Christmas after Brexit.

A man dressed as Santa delivers post
The Deutsche Post's own 'Father Christmas' delivers some post-Brexit goodies. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Bernd Settnik

According to a recent survey, the majority of Germans get annoyed at the sight of a “premature” Christmas biscuit. While most people are only just getting around to packing away their summer clothes, it’s tough to be confronted by a row of gingerbread snowmen suddenly smiling up at you in Aldi.

While we can definitely relate to that, the realities of Brexit mean that it could pay to think about Christmas a few months earlier this year. (Maybe the owners of these supermarkets had British gift-givers in mind when they stocked the shelves with festive marzipan treats way back in August?)

In the before times, Brits in Germany often enjoyed little parcels from family containing a taste of home – from homemade treats to products not easily available in Europe – but Brexit has made this type of thing a lot more complicated.

All types of parcel – whether commercial or private – are affected by changes to rules that came into force when the UK left the EU. In many cases, costs have gone up because of customs charges and VAT requirements. In a few cases, products may no longer be sent at all.

Since Brexit, it now costs more to send gifts from the EU to the UK, and vice versa, it takes longer, and certain items are unfortunately banned.

Here’s what you need to know when sending gifts between the UK and Germany this Christmas. 

UK to EU

As well as having the appropriate postage, gift parcels sent from the UK to the EU need an extra customs declaration form attached.

This form asks for the sender and recipient’s details, whether the item is a gift or an item sent for sale (which can affect the level of duty to be paid) and a detailed description of what’s inside – so, sadly, Christmas parcels lose their element of surprise. 

It’s worth noting that new VAT rules on parcels coming from outside of the EU have meant that some people receiving packages from the UK have had to pay a €6 handling fee and 19 percent VAT in Germany. 

Though gifts under €45 are supposed to be exempt, The Local has heard from some readers that they have been asked to pay the charges regardless – so it’s a good idea to make sure that the present is clearly marked as a gift on the customs form. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why people in Germany are being charged to receive small parcels from outside the EU

The form is available to download here. And the basic prices are on the Royal Mail website here

Because of the Northern Ireland protocol, these new rules do not apply to people sending parcels to Europe from Northern Ireland.

Food products

Additional issues come into play if you plan to send food products from the UK to the EU – you may remember the uproar over lorry drivers’ ham and cheese sandwiches back in January. 

Importing products derived from an animal into the EU from a Third Country (which is what the UK now is) is a complicated process and the rules apply to both businesses and individuals – and prompted the closure of Marks & Spencer stores in France.

The EU’s strict phyto-sanitary rules mean that all imports of animal derived products technically come under these rules, so sending a box of chocolates by post to France is now not allowed (because of the milk). 

Parcels that contain banned animal products can be seized and destroyed at the border.

If you’re unsure, you can find an extensive – and slightly overwhelming – list of the items you can and can’t send from the UK to Germany on the Post Office website here.

EU to UK

New rules also affect sending parcels from EU countries like Germany to the UK. 

As with sending parcels the other way, customs declaration must be completed before sending. You can either do this at the post office or fill out the form online on the Deutsche Post / DHL or another carrier’s website if you frank your parcel in advance. 

A man posts a letter in the snow in Magdeburg
A man posts a letter in the snow in Magdeburg. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jens Wolf

If you haven’t posted anything to the UK in a while, be warned: the post-Brexit prices may dampen some of your festive cheer. Since Britain left the EU, it’s been shoved into a new geographically category along with Switzerland – and you should expect Swiss prices to match. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about sending post between Germany and the UK after Brexit

For example, the smallest possible parcel will now cost you €9 rather than €5, while a large parcel weighing up to 20kg will now cost you around €50 to send, rather than €32. (A full list of the new postage prices can be found here.)

Unlike parcels sent to Switzerland, however, there’s no option to pay extra to extradite postage to the UK, so be sure to post any Christmas gifts way in advance of the day itself. 

Food products

Here, at least there’s good news. UK rules are currently less restrictive than EU ones – which means sending food parcels from France to the UK is slightly easier.

The British government website currently states the UK has imposed no restrictions on dairy food or meat for ‘personal’ imports of food – though the usual rules on customs and duty still apply, and there are limits on amounts that can be claimed as ‘personal’.

This means that yummy Stollen you picked up at Netto should be accepted by UK customs officials – as long as it’s properly packaged and not joined by a industrial container full of other marzipan-filled treats. 

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‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

Ranked: Italy’s best universities and how they compare worldwide

“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.