Refused orders and returned packages: Mail between France and UK hit by ‘Brexit effect’

Cancelled orders, hefty charges and returned packages - these are the issues reported with the mail between France and the UK since Brexit.

Refused orders and returned packages: Mail between France and UK hit by 'Brexit effect'
Brexit is complicating package deliveries between the UK and France. Photo: AFP

Since the Brexit transition period ended on January 1st there have been new rules in place for sending parcels between France and the UK and extra customs charges in place for some items.

But when we asked readers of The Local if they had experienced problems, dozens of people replied with tales of surcharges worth much more than the value of the item, packages returned or undelivered and several companies refusing orders from within the EU.

Many people reported long delays in receiving Christmas gifts from friends and family, as well as issues with deliveries of online orders.

Since the UK became a non-EU country there are three main changes to mail deliveries – extra charges, the need for customs forms and a complete ban on certain items being posted from the UK to the EU.

READ ALSO These are the new rules for sending parcels between France and the UK

But issues reported by readers of The Local seem to exceed the new rules, with some parcels simple being returned to sender.

Meanwhile an increasing number of businesses are charging large amounts in delivery fees to cover their costs in following the new rules, or simply deciding that delivering over the EU/UK border is not worth the effort.


The issues of charges seems a little unclear at present, with the Post Office in the UK still saying that it is awaiting further clarification from the British government.

Charges apply on all items apart from documents, but the amounts charged by different firms and different courier companies seems to vary widely.


Paul Wheeler, who lives in Deux Sevres in south west France, was charged €43.50 in customs duties on a small picture that had been sent to him by his children in the UK as a birthday present.

Emma Manda, who lives in France, had a similar experience, saying: “My father sent my son a tablet via DHL for his birthday this week, I had a charge of €48.50 otherwise the delivery man would not give it to me when he came to my door.”

Harry Veitch added: “I ordered Filofax pages at £8, when they arrived DHL wanted €25 duty, I refused them, I told them to send them back.”

Susan Barrett said: “On arrival in France HDL demanded €29.50 to cover import duty/ tax before they would deliver the vitamin supplements I had ordered from the UK.”


Some people reported that their items were simply returned to sender.

Some were told it was because the items they were trying to send were not allowed. There is a fairly long list of items that are not allowed to be sent in to the EU, including anything with animal products, which rules out even a box of chocolates being sent by mail from the UK.

One reader said: “I'm a Brit living in France and recently ordered a new home office chair (£288) back in December. At first, the company in the UK said delivery to Europe would take place from January 5th, however, on January 1st I received an email stating my order had been cancelled as the company had suspended shipping to all EU countries due to new tax laws between the UK and the EU.”

Julia Ross said: “My sister in the UK posted a parcel to me in France on December 27th in order to beat the Brexit deadline. 10 days later, she received the parcel back having been stopped at customs. 

“Apparently, one of the items was not allowed into France and fortunately her address was written on the package. The post office informed her that most parcels in that situation, are destroyed. It cost her £15 postage. I don’t know the contents of the parcel as it was a present for my birthday on January 5th.

“She now will have to wait until I next visit the UK. She was angry because she'd posted it before the 31st.” 


However other senders received their parcel back with no explanation of why it had been returned.

Anthony Haigh, who lives in Centre-Val-de-Loire, said: “Item sent via DHL before Christmas was undelivered.

“Same firm attempted to supply the same item after December 31st. This was returned to depot by transport company and the supplier refunded my payment with apologies! All of these transactions through Amazon UK – I shall not bother again.”

Order refused

An increasing number of companies appear to be deciding that the new rules are simply not worth the hassle, with several customers in France told they could no longer order from UK-based websites.

Likewise customers in the UK ordering from European sites have also had their orders refused.

Jo Tait said: “I had ordered some bed linen and the company won’t deliver it as they don’t know what the charges will be.”

Christine Dickinson said: “Items ordered from UK held until January 13th as delivery company not shipping due to Brexit.” 

She added: “John Lewis no longer delivering internationally – horror of horrors!”


Several British companies including the luxury retailer Fortnum & Mason have stated that they will not be delivering to the EU for the foreseeable future.

Thank you to everyone who shared your experiences with us for this article.


Member comments

  1. Why order a Filofax diary from the UK when it’s easy to order from Filofax France? Could it be that it was off Ebay and purportedly cheaper.

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What Brits in France need to know if they move back to the UK post-Brexit

Most people accept that moving to France is tricky and involves a lot of paperwork, but for Brits deciding to go back to the UK it's easy, right? After all, you're just going home? Wrong.

What Brits in France need to know if they move back to the UK post-Brexit

Moving countries is a time-consuming process – but if you’re British and living in France you might think that moving back to the UK would be simpler? Well, there won’t be a language barrier and as a UK citizen you won’t need any immigration paperwork (although if you’re bringing a French partner with then that gets complicated) – but you will still face administrative hurdles around pensions, healthcare, driving and taxes. 

Some of these issues existed before Brexit, while others are as a direct result of the UK leaving the EU. Here are the most common questions from Brits thinking of moving back to the UK; 

Do I still qualify for NHS treatment?

You are entitled to NHS treatment if you are ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK – there is no minimum time limit so as soon as you are back in the UK on a permanent basis, you can use the NHS. You will need to register for a GP in your local area in order to access non-emergency treatment, and to get an NHS number if you do not already have one.

You may need to provide proof of a UK address in order to use NHS services – although in reality UK citizens are rarely asked for this apart from when registering with a GP. 

If you have been an S1 holder while living in the EU you should cancel that, just so there is no confusion over where you are getting your healthcare.

If you go back to France for a visit, remember that you are now a tourist and will need a GHIC card to get European healthcare, while travel insurance is also advised in case of accident or illness while visiting an EU country. 

Can I drive on my EU licence?

If you have been living in France you may have had to change your UK licence for a French one (depending on the licence expiry date, as per the bilateral agreement between France and the UK on driving licences). 

Once you’re back living in the UK you can continue to drive on your EU licence until you reach the age of 70, unless your licence expires before then.

If your licence has an expiry date (including the photocard expiry date) – once it’s time to renew, you should swap it for a UK licence.

Once you reach the age of 70, your licence will need to be exchanged for a UK one – even the licence itself remains valid. You don’t need to take a new driving test, it’s just a matter of swapping the licence – you can find details on the swap process for UK licences here, and if you’re in Northern Ireland here

If your licence is from a non-EU country, you have 12 months to swap it for a UK or NI one. 

You can continue to drive while the exchange process is happening. 

Can I bring my French partner with me?

If you’re returning alone you won’t need to do any kind of immigration paperwork, your UK passport is enough. However if you are bringing with you a partner who is not a UK citizen, it becomes complicated.

After the end of the Brexit transition process there was an ‘amnesty’ period in which Brits with EU partners could move back to the UK under the old immigration rules. This is now ended and EU partners face the same immigration process as all other foreign spouses.

Essentially either your partner will need to have already secured a relatively high-paying job in the UK, or you will need to prove that you have a large amount of money to support them. They will need to go through the process of getting a UK visa (which is expensive – between £1,000 and £1,500 just for the visa fee) and there is no guarantee that their application will be successful simply because they are married/in a civil partnership with a Brit. They will also need to take an English-language exam. 

Find full details here

What about my pension contributions from the EU? 

If you have been working in France, you will probably have been contributing to the French pension system. Pre-Brexit, UK and EU pension contributions could be blended into a single pension – but this is no longer the case.

Brits still living in the EU who are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement are theoretically covered by blended pensions if they had made pension contributions in the UK before moving to the EU, but the same does not apply if you move back to the UK. 

The good news is that EU countries still practice this – so if for example you have worked in France, Germany and Italy your contributions will be totted up and paid out as a single pension – you apply in the last country you worked in. Bear in mind, however, that different countries have different pension ages. So if for example you worked in France (pension age 64 under the new system) and Greece (pension age 67) – you will start to get the French portion of your pension from the age of 64, but you won’t get the Greek part until you turn 67.

The country that is paying your pension may require you to have an EU bank account to pay into – and you should check with the country paying your pension whether there are any other conditions to observe.

When it comes to a pension from the UK, it depends on how long you worked there – the basic rule is that you need 10 years of National Insurance contributions in order to get a state pension. However the UK government states that periods of work done in the EU or EEA ‘may’ count towards your qualifying period. Even if they do, however, they don’t count towards the total pension amount – so for example if you worked for 7 years in the UK and the remaining 35 years of your career in the EU, you can qualify for a UK state pension, but it will only be based on the 7 years of work in the UK (in other words, the payment per month will be tiny).

Further details on UK pension entitlement here.  

Do I need to hand back my residency card, health card etc before I leave the EU? 

Most countries require that you hand back residency cards before you leave, but in truth this is rarely strictly enforced. Check with the préfecture that issued your carte de séjour what they want you to do with them, but most préfectures simply ask you to post it back. 

EXPLAINED The bureaucratic boxes to tick if you plan to leave France permenantly

If you do end up keeping residency or healthcare cards – don’t use them on trips back to the EU. Tempting as it might be to avoid border queues or healthcare fees, you will create a confusing official record if you are claiming to be resident of two countries at once.

If you have taken French citizenship, that is a different matter and of course you are entitled to keep and use your French passport when visiting the EU.

READ ALL What do dual-nationals need to know about post-Brexit border controls

Do I still have to pay French taxes? 

It’s highly likely that you were paying taxes in the country you lived in. Generally, tax declarations concern the previous year, so you will have to do at least one tax declaration and payment after moving back to the UK.

In France, the annual tax declaration takes place in April, and concerns the previous calendar year. So if for example you move back to the UK in September 2023, you will have to complete a tax declaration in April 2024, covering your 9 months of residency in France in 2023.

If you still own property in France you will pay property taxes there, and if you have any earnings in your former home you will likely still have to pay taxes there – check with your local tax office. 

When you left the UK, you will likely have informed HMRC that you were leaving the country, so you will now have to tell them that you’re back. Whether you have to fill out a UK self-assessment form depends on whether you are a salaried employee or self-employed/retired. 

Can I keep my French bank account? Do I need a new UK account? 

This one depends on the policy of your bank, but most banks in France require you to have a French address.

It’s likely that your UK bank may have closed your account while you were living outside the UK, in which case you will need to open a new one.

A practical option while you are moving and still have interests in both countries is to open an internet bank account with a company like Wise or Revolut – these offer accounts in both pounds and euros and give you a European IBAN and a UK Sort code, so you can use it in both countries.

Will my EU qualifications be recognised?

If you were studying or gaining professional qualifications while living in the EU, don’t assume that these will be recognised in the UK. Brexit ended the mutual recognition of qualifications – check with the professional or academic body that issued them whether these are recognised in the UK, you may need to acquire a certificate of recognition.

It’s a good idea to check this point before you start job-hunting in the UK. 

Be prepared for hassles

The advantage of moving back to the UK is that you’re not starting from scratch and at least you know how things like council tax, electricity billing and healthcare work.

However, don’t assume that it will all be plain sailing – your lack of a recent UK address will make you an anomaly in many companies’ systems and you’re likely to be forced to have several long and annoying conversations with call centres while you explain that while you are a UK citizen, you have not recently been living in the UK.

There are likely to be other niggles too – many UK car insurance companies won’t recognise a no-claims bonus built up abroad, so you’ll be back to paying full premiums on your car insurance, while banks might request extra money laundering checks due to your foreign associations.

And if you fondly imagined that switching from Edf France to Edf UK, or Orange France to Orange UK would be easy because they’re the same company, forget it. They insist they have nothing to do with each other, so you cannot transfer an account. 

A lot of people in the UK also seem to be confused about the difference between citizenship and residency, so be prepared to have the following conversation a lot: “I’ve recently been living in France. No, I’m not French, I’m British, I was just living in France. Yes, I am a UK citizen.”