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IMPORT

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
na 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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For members

BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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