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.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


INTERVIEW: ‘A lot of people think Brexit is done, but it’s not for Brits in Europe’

A new project from citizens campaign group British in Europe aims to empower Brits in the EU to advocate for their post-Brexit rights. The Local spoke to BiE chair Jane Golding about the problems British citizens face in Europe and why the project is still needed.

INTERVIEW: 'A lot of people think Brexit is done, but it's not for Brits in Europe'

In the early days of 2021, after the United Kingdom had left the EU and completed the final stage of Brexit, many British citizens returned to their home countries in Europe only to face a grilling at the border. 

Though the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) technically guaranteed their right to live and work in the countries they’d settled in before Brexit, there was widespread confusion about these fundamental rights and many were treated like new arrivals. 

Over time, the chaos at the airports subsided as border officials and airlines were given clearer guidance on the treatment of Brits. But three years later, a number of Brits who live on the continent still face problems when it comes to proving their post-Brexit rights.

This was the reason campaign group British in Europe decided to set up their new EU-funded ICE project. Starting this year in March, it aims to build valuable connections between UK citizens abroad and mentor the next generation of civil rights advocates around the continent. The acronym stands for ‘Inform, Empower, Connect’ and the project’s organisers describe it as “the first project of its kind”. 

READ ALSO: Hundreds of Britons across Europe given orders to leave

“It’s a completely innovative project – especially the fact that it’s across so many countries,” Jane Golding, chair of British in Europe and one of the project’s founders, told The Local.

Bringing together groups from 11 EU member states, the project aims to train up volunteers to understand both the Withdrawal Agreement and EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as learning skills like advocacy and communication, using real-life civil rights cases that are referred to British in Europe.

“The ultimate goal is to amplify the messages across the wider group,” said Golding. “You start with the volunteers, they go back to their groups, then the people that we train, they go back and train people. Then they pass on that knowledge to the wider groups, on their Facebook accounts and through social media, and hopefully it all snowballs, not just in their countries but across the EU.” 

READ ALSO: What Brits in Europe need to know about UK’s new minimum income rules

‘Far-reaching repercussions’

So many years after Brexit, it’s hard to believe that there’s still a need for a project like ICE that empowers Brits to protect their rights. Indeed, the future of groups like British in Europe and regional groups like British in Germany and Spain-based group EuroCitizens felt uncertain just a year or two ago. 

But Golding says there are still serious issues cropping up for Brits in several countries around Europe – they just have a different quality to the problems that arose at the start.

“In some ways it’s needed even more because as we predicted right at the beginning, at the first stage of implementation, you’ve got the more routine cases,” she explained.

“What we’re seeing now is not as many cases, but when the cases come up, they’re complex. They can have such far-reaching repercussions on people’s lives. And of course, memories start to fade. A lot of people think Brexit is already done, but it’s not.”

Volunteers in British in Europe ICE project

The volunteers of the British in Europe ICE project pose for a photo at the kick-off meeting in Brussels on May 21st, 2024. Photo courtesy of British In Europe

Though the rights set out in the Withdrawal Agreement apply across the continent, different countries have taken different approaches to implementing them.

That means that while in Germany, for example, UK citizens simply had to declare that they lived in the country, people in neighbouring Denmark had to apply for their rights. 

This led to a notorious situation in Denmark in which as many as 2,000 Brits were threatened with deportation after not applying in time or completing the right application process. According to Golding, this had a lot to do with the fact that people who arrived in 2020 weren’t given the same information as other UK migrants who arrived before. 

In Sweden, meanwhile, the situation is still difficult for many Brits who lived there prior to Brexit.

“There have been issues with an anomalously high numbers of refusals compared to other countries, and they seem to be taking a very strict approach on late applications,” Golding explained. 

READ ALSO: Brits in Sweden still in limbo years after Brexit deadline

Portugal has been another difficult case. Although the country opted for a declaratory system where Brits could simply exchange old residence documents for a new ID card after Brexit, reports suggest that the authorities have taken years to issue these cards, leaving many of the some 34,000 Brits in the country in limbo.

“While people are still waiting to have their status confirmed and have their card in their hand, it’s difficult to access a whole range of services, like health services, or applying for jobs or dealing with the authorities, or even going to the bank,” Golding said. “All of these problems just affect people’s lives.”

A French border guard checks a passport at the border

A French border guard checks a passport at the border. Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP

There are also concerns about the EU’s new exit and entry system (EES), due to come into force in October, which is based on biometric documentation.

“We still do not have clear data on how many people in declaratory countries like Germany, where it wasn’t compulsory to apply for the card, don’t actually have a card,” Golding said. “How is that going to play out if it’s a document-based digitalised system?”

READ ALSO: How Europe’s new EES border checks will impact flight passengers

A lack of support

In the immediate aftermath of Brexit, funding from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) was still available to support NGOs in Europe helping Brits with their migration and civil rights issues. But that temporary funding soon expired, leaving groups like British in Europe largely on their own.

“The whole point is people’s lives change at very different paces,” Golding said. “And now this project is really going to start to pick up some of those cases and report on those issues, which is really crucial and exciting for the precedent that it sets, and it’s very clearly necessary still, because people don’t just sort their lives in the 18 months that the FCDO chose to supply that funding.”

This feeling of being left alone and increasingly isolated from the UK is one that many Brits in Europe have felt in the aftermath of Brexit. But the upcoming UK election on July 4th could be a game-changer.

This time, following a change in the law, Brits who have lived abroad for more than 15 years will be able to vote for the first time.

Polling station in the UK

A polling station in the UK. Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

When it comes to the election, the message from British in Europe is clear: “Make your voice count now, make your vote count, make sure you use it,” Golding said. 

With the June 18th registration deadline fast approaching, BiE is advising UK citizens abroad to apply for a proxy vote as soon as possible, rather than relying on a postal vote from abroad. Since the 15-year rule was abolished on January 16th, more than 100,000 British citizens have registered to vote, according to official statistics. It is unclear how many were registered before the change in the law. 

READ ALSO: How Brits living in Europe can register to vote for UK election

With an estimated 4.7 million Brits currently living abroad – 1.3 million of whom are in the EU – this could have a significant impact on the electoral landscape, Golding says. But most significantly, the change is creating a feeling of connection and belonging that wasn’t there before.

Nurturing this sense of belonging is one of the main goals of ICE.

With these bridges being built, British in Europe hopes to create a network of support that spans across borders.

“Now we’ve met. We’re going to meet,” said Golding. “We know we’re going to meet again in Berlin in October and then we’ll meet again in the new year in 2025 as well. It means a huge amount because even British in Europe, our steering team, we’ve only met physically three times.”

This opens up the possibility of people sharing their knowledge from country to country, Golding explained.

“There is crossover and the reassurance of having that EU wide view and knowing that you’re not alone and knowing that in this country, we managed to get this solution,” she said. “And then you can go back and say to the authorities in your country, well, in that country they did that – all of that helps. It’s really good.”