Brexit: EU red tape hit British businesses in Spain ‒ ‘Shelves emptying and not refilling

Boris Johnson 'needs to step up for British expats' says expert

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The UK left the EU on January 31 last year and the Brexit transition period ended on December 31. For the 350,000 or so British expats officially registered as living in Spain, several areas of their lives have changed as a result of Brexit. One consequence of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU is that it is now considered a third country by the 27-member trading bloc. This means that people living in Spain and the rest of the EU must pay VAT, customs and excise duties on goods they want to import from the UK.

As part of Brexit, Brussels has also slapped a raft of red tape on UK exports to the EU, including meat and dairy.

Many fresh products must now undergo a series of strict sanitary and phytosanitary checks to enter the EU.

The logistical complications have spelled trouble for some British businesses based in Spain as they have had to switch their suppliers.

British councillor Bill Anderson, who lives on the Costa del Sol, has said that at one point the shelves in some British supermarkets in Spain were “emptying” but “weren’t refilling”.

Bill, who is from Edinburgh, moved to Spain in 2002 and has represented the country’s PP party in the town of Mijas since 2019.

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He told Express.co.uk: “There are a lot of little things that I think nobody thought about with Brexit.

“It’s affected British-based businesses here in Spain.

“For example, I don’t think anybody realised that meat and dairy products would not be allowed to be brought from the UK to Europe.

“There are a couple of shops just here in Mijas and there are probably more in other parts, like Iceland and Tesco.

“There was a spell where the shelves were emptying, and they just weren’t refilling.

“They seem to have managed to get around that by buying, for example Irish, products.

“Whether it be sausages or cheeses, or anything containing dairy.

“So, there’s a lot of Irish bacon around and Danish bacon as British bacon can’t be brought in here.”

Spells of empty shelves in some British supermarkets have also been blamed on UK goods being held up by customs officials.

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Individuals in Spain have also reported high taxes on packages they have received from the UK.

Graham Hunt, an estate agent in Valencia, was among those to report high import taxes, according to The Local.

The publication quoted him in January as saying that his daughter’s friend faced a €79 (£67) charge for “customs and taxes”. 

Bill said he also knew that a British pasty company on the Costa del Sol, which imported its baked goods from the UK, had also been affected.

He said that with the extra import duties “their trade cost went up from something like 50 cents per pasty to about 85 cents per pasty”.

Bill explained that some businesses had had to change suppliers, while many were forced to pass the higher prices on to the consumer.

He added: “We have noticed a little bit of an increase in the prices because they’ve had to change their suppliers.

“And anything that could be brought in from the UK is subject to import duties as well now.”
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