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BREXIT

Can I take Spanish cheese, meat and wine into the UK in 2022?

The start of 2022 marks a new phase in the Brexit process - the introduction of checks of goods at the UK border. But what does this mean for travellers wanting to take some Spanish cheese, meat or wine into the UK?

Can I bring Spanish cheese to UK in 2022?
Spanish cheeses. Photo: Vane Monte/ Pixabay

Since the end of the Brexit transition period, residents and travellers who want to bring British food products into Spain have faced strict controls and outright bans on certain foods. This mainly includes products that contain meat and dairy.  

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

Up until now however, taking Spanish produce to friends and family in the UK has been unaffected.

This is set to change in 2022 as the UK begins to introduce its own controls on imports.

Throughout 2022 British authorities have set a series of deadlines for imposing controls on imports from the EU.

The British deadlines for controls have already been extended several times because the infrastructure was not ready. It is also not clear at this stage exactly how rigorous checks will be.

January 1st 2022

Implementation of full customs declarations and customs controls.

This refers to businesses importing from the EU on a commercial basis, so won’t affect individuals travelling into the UK, although it’s possible that there will be delays at the ports if businesses are not fully prepared for the new paperwork.

July 1st 2022

Introduction of checks on specified products including meat and meat products, high-risk food items and certain types of plants. These products will require veterinary certification and physical checks will be introduced at the border.

The rules as written refer to all imports – not only those for commercial purposes – so would cover holidaymakers taking home some Spanish jamón or Brits living in Spain taking chorizo as a gift for friends and relatives back in the UK.

What is not clear at this stage is whether UK customs have the capacity to check private vehicles or individual travellers, as well as commercial importers.

The Local has asked the UK government about its policy for private individuals travelling with small amounts of food for personal consumption or to give as gifts.

September 1st 2022

Introduction of checks on all dairy produce. The same as above, but extended to all dairy products, so this covers things such as Manchego cheese, yoghurt and chocolate turrón.

September 1st also marks the introduction of checks on live animals, but this does not apply to domestic pets, who are still covered by the Pet Passport or Animal Health Certificate rules.

READ ALSO – Spain’s new pet ID in 2022: What you need to know

November 1st 2022

Checks extended to “all remaining regulated products of animal origin, including composite products and fish products”.

This extends the checks and certification so that it covers a wide variety of products including meat, fish, meat or fish products, dairy products or any products containing those things – for example, certain types of jelly sweets contain gelatine, so are classed as animal products.

This would also include things such as Spanish tins of sardines, mussels and any other fish products.

When considering bringing items into the EU from the UK, a good rule of thumb is to look for anything certified as vegan.

Certain types of plants are also covered by the regulations, which would cover travellers bringing flowers, bulbs or plants for the garden. 

Alcohol

Spanish wine, beer and spirits are not covered by extra checks but have since January 2021 been subject to new limits.

There are now strict limits on the amount of wine, beer, spirits and tobacco that can be brought into the UK from the EU.

The amounts still allow for bringing a few gifts into the UK, but gone are the days when you could drive over to Spain and load up the car with many bottles of Rioja, cava or vermouth.  

Limits:

  • beer – 42 litres

  • still wine – 18 litres

  • spirits and other liquors over 22 percent alcohol – 4 litres

  • sparkling wine, fortified wine (vermouth, sherry etc) and other alcoholic drinks up to 22 percent alcohol (not including beer or still wine) – 9 litres

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BREXIT

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions two weeks after they were told their UK licences were no longer valid, with the latest update from the UK Embassy suggesting it could still take "weeks" to reach a deal. 

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Spain who are currently in limbo, unable to drive in Spain until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

There are no official stats on how many Britons of the 407,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain in 2022 are affected; according to the UK Embassy the “majority exchanged” as advised.

But judging by the amount of negative comments the last two updates from the British Embassy in Madrid have received, hundreds if not thousands are stuck without being able to drive in Spain.  

May 12th’s video message by Ambassador Hugh Elliott left many unhappy with the fact that the forecast for a possible licence exchange agreement will be in the “coming weeks”, when two weeks earlier Elliott had spoken of “rapidly accelerating talks”. 

Dozens of angry responses spoke of the “shocking” and “absolutely ridiculous” holdup in negotiations that have been ongoing for more than at least a year and a half, and which the UK Embassy has put down to the fact that Spain is asking the British government to give them access to DVLA driver data such as road offences, something “not requested by other EU Member States”.

Numerous Britons have explained the setbacks not being able to drive in Spain are causing them, from losing their independence to struggling to go to work, the hospital or the supermarket, especially those in rural areas with little public transport.  

“I know personally from all the messages you’ve sent in, just how incredibly disruptive all of this is for many of you,” Elliott said in response. 

“If you are struggling to get around you may find additional advice or support from your local town hall, or charities or community groups in your area and the Support in Spain website is another very useful source of organisations that can provide general support to residents.

“And if your inability to drive is putting you in a very vulnerable situation, you can always contact your nearest consulate for advice.”

There continue to be disparaging opinions in the British community in Spain over whether any pity should be felt for UK licence holders stuck without driving, as many argue they had enough time to register intent to exchange their licences, whilst others clarify that their particular set of circumstances, such as arriving after the December 2020 ‘intent to exchange’ deadline, made this impossible. 

OPINION: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault

So is there any light at the end of the tunnel for drivers whose UK licences aren’t valid anymore in Spain or soon won’t be?

“The agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test,” Elliott said on Thursday May 12th of the deal they are “fully committed” to achieve.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a Spanish driving licence?

And yet it’s hard for anyone to rest their hopes on this necessarily happening – sooner or later or ever – in part because the embassy advice for those with UK licences for whom it’s imperative to continue driving in Spain is that they should take steps to get their Spanish licence now, while acknowledging that in some places there are “long delays for lessons” and getting your Spanish licence “doesn’t happen overnight”.

READ ALSO: What now for UK licence holders in Spain?

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