For members


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
Parcel carrier Turan Oeztekin of the Deutsche Post DHL Group logistics and postal services company sorts parcels in his van as he delivers parcels in a residential area in Dortmund, western Germany, on December 10, 2020. (Photo by Ina 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


Who in Europe is affected by the UK’s new Brexit border checks on goods?

The UK has finally introduced post-Brexit border checks on food, plants and some animal products coming in from Europe. These affect businesses for now but soon they will be extended to people carrying personal goods from the EU to the UK. 

Who in Europe is affected by the UK's new Brexit border checks on goods?

The UK finally brought in post-Brexit border checks on Thursday February 1st, affecting several products, including food and plants. 

The checks on goods arriving from countries in Europe have been due to come into force since January 2021, when the UK left the single market and customs union. But the British government postponed them five times, to allow companies to prepare and to avoid the price hikes that will result from more paperwork and longer delivery time. 

Now that the checks are finally coming into effect albeit in a phased approach, “Brexit finally becomes real for imports of EU goods into Britain,” The Economist writes.

So who is affected now and what’s the next step?

Which products are checked?

Currently the new checks concern food, plants and some animal products from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, as well as the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Under the new system – the “Border Target Operating Model” – these goods are classified in categories based on the risk they pose to public health and the environment.

From February 1st 2024, imports of plants and animal products considered at ‘low risk’, a including ham, sausages and cured meat, as well as butter, cheese and cream as well as cut flowers, will have to be notified to authorities before they arrive in Great Britain but will not require a health certificate and they will mostly be exempt from systematic controls. 

Imports considered at “medium risk” (mostly concerning meat, dairy and fish products) or “high risk” (all plants for planting, potatoes, used farm machinery, certain seeds and wood) will require health or phytosanitary certification.

READ ALSO: How the UK’s delayed Brexit checks on fresh food from the EU could affect you

As of April 30th 2024, physical checks will begin on medium and high-risk products. Inspections will be done at designated border posts, instead of at the destination. The government said the selection of consignments for physical checks will be based on risk and the “history of compliance of specific trades”. 

From October 31st 2024 orders of medium and high-risk goods will have to be accompanied by a safety and security declaration. 

Reuters reports there will be no checks on fruit and veg imports from Europe to the UK until October.

But companies exporting products from the EU to the UK will be severely affected.

Shane Brennan, Chief Executive of the Cold Chain Federation told the UK in a Changing Europe website: “To illustrate the issue – if I am a producer of buffalo mozzarella in northern Italy, or of chorizo in western Spain… I will for the first time (possibly ever) be asked to become an exporter.. and I must train myself up on the complex international and UK rules, find a local vet that is willing to certify my goods, at site (at a cost of €200 to €700 a time); find a specialist haulier, usually on a lorry carrying goods from other local food producers with the same compliance burdens; employ an agent to ensure the data entries onto the UK’s food import IT system, alongside customs declarations, at maybe €50 to €200 a time; and… pay a new border inspection charge of up to £43 irrespective of whether my consignment is physically inspected or not.

“The reality is that many EU based food producers will take the decision not to service the UK anymore,” he said. 


Sending chorizo from a company in Spain to a friend in the UK? That will get more expensive. Photo: Monica Volpin from Pixabay

Why the UK is checking goods

Why are checks needed at all given that there are no quotas or tariffs under the post-Brexit EU-UK trade agreement? The reason is that both the UK and the EU have to make sure that goods meet the quality standards set out in the respective laws. 

The EU put in place border controls on goods imported from the UK immediately after the UK left the single market, in 2021. This left British exporters at a disadvantage, as they faced customs checked while EU exporters to Britain did not, the UK’s National Farmers Union (NFU) noted. 

In addition, the NFU said in October, that “border controls have a vital role to play in upholding our nation’s biosecurity, food safety and international reputation… It is crucial that goods we import into the UK meet equivalent standards and do not undermine biosecurity”.

Also, the lack of UK controls on EU imports could be challenged at the World Trade Organisation because it gave the EU an unjustified preferential treatment over other countries.

More paperwork and concerns

The new system, however, is expected to have an impact on the price of goods. Companies on both sides of the Channel will have to deal with more paperwork, which will increase costs that are going to be passed on to consumers. Time will also be a factor, as there could be delays at custom controls, especially for shipments with several types of products (the so-called “groupage”) or if businesses make mistakes in filling the forms. 

According to the UK government, the changes will cost UK businesses approximately GBP 330 million (€388 million) per year.

Businesses have expressed concerns especially for fresh goods, which could be damaged or perish while waiting. The VGB, the Dutch flower growers’ association, called on the British government to delay the checks again because they are due to start in the middle of the planting season.

Marco Forgione, director general at the Institute of Export and International Trade, told the BBC this week: “There is still confusion and uncertainty, both here in the UK and in the EU… we need to do more to make sure businesses here and in the EU really know what these changes are and how they can comply with the new regulations.”

Individual travellers could face checks from April

For now at least, personal goods brought to the UK by individual travellers are not impacted by the new rules or subject to checks.

But they will be in the near future, a spokesperson of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) told The Local.

Under the current rules , it is currently possible to bring to the UK food, including dairy, fish and meat for personal use, although there some restrictions, such as 2kg maximum on pork products. There are no restrictions on bringing food items such as chocolate, biscuits, cakes and bread.

Wine, beer and spirits are not affected by the new checks, but they have been subject to new limits since January 2021.

A plant health certificate is already needed for certain plants, seeds, bark and wood from the EU, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

But when the 

READ ALSO Bovril, tea and ham sandwiches – what are the rules on taking food from the UK into the EU?

The spokesperson for DEFRA said: “The future policy for personal imports is still being finalised and we will publish details shortly.

“It remains our intention that the new personal imports policy will come into effect in April 2024. Details are being finalised but the policy will adopt similar principles of risk assessment and proportionality as set out on the Border Target Operating Model.”