Welcome to Brexit. I’m sorry, but we have to confiscate all your food, ”a Dutch customs agent from Hoek van Holland, one of the terminals in the Rotterdam port complex, tells a surprised Polish trucker who has just returned with his cargo, by ferry, from the UK. In their sandwiches, wrapped in aluminum foil, there are ham and cheese, two products included in the list of those that can no longer be introduced into the European Union without the corresponding permit. “Can I keep the bread and leave the inside?” Asks the driver. “I’m not sorry. I have to confiscate everything, ”the officer replied, according to a scene recorded by Dutch public television.
The operation runs smoothly, but it clearly shows that since last day 1 the United Kingdom is a third commercial country for community partners, and that even food for personal consumption does not escape the new rules. That and that the Dutch authorities want to note the change in status.
There are several things on the list provided by the Netherlands Customs Service, which in small quantities may be just a reserve of food for the road but which do not escape the regulations. These are meat, dairy, and vegetables, flowers and fresh fruit, without a phytosanitary certificate. Said document “shows that they are free of harmful organisms, and customs will also confiscate pieces of orange or apple without legitimizing,” says the Ministry of Agriculture. The phytosanitary certificate must be requested before traveling to the EU from British territory. Yes, dates, bananas, pineapple, cooked or fermented fruit or dried flowers, among others, can be carried in the suitcase, the statement added.
Upon arrival in the Netherlands, personal luggage is also checked and its contents can be removed if you violate the rules. According to the page on Biosafety and Plants of the European Commission, this list serves to avoid pests and quarantines: “Milk, meat or products of this particular kind of consumption introduced into the EU [sin ese permiso] they represent a threat to animal health throughout the Union ”.
On the 1st, the new Brexit trade rules came into force, once the transitional period has concluded, and the sandwich episode – resolved with good humor by both parties – shows that agents are on alert. The port of Rotterdam has five ferry terminals, and about 10,000 trucks are transferred daily to British docks, such as Harwich or Hull. Last December, port customs indicated that they expected congestion and jams “between the first four and six weeks of 2021, mainly due to small signatures, which may not have caught up.” At the moment, the situation is manageable, but the entrance of the new year has been exceptional due to the pandemic, so there may be more work soon.
Months of preparation
The United Kingdom has become a third country for the European Union, and through the port of Rotterdam, with its five ferry terminals, 40 of the 54 million tons of cargo move between the Netherlands and the territory per year British. The Dutch Customs Service has spent several months informing companies about the change in situation and the documents required to cross the border. Especially the prior notification of the vehicle and its merchandise. The agency also has a website dedicated to private passengers.
“Brexit means big changes in luggage on the way back from the UK. Remember that you cannot bring everything, ”says the customs website. In the photos offered by the service itself and reproduced by the Dutch press, they can be seen in a container from oranges and chicken thighs packed to cartons of apple juice. All requisitioned for lack of export permit, even if it is for own consumption.