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CHRISTMAS

Christmas travel between Italy and the UK: What not to pack in your suitcase

If you're travelling between Italy and the UK and planning on taking some festive goodies with you, here's what you should know about the rules and what you can't pack since Brexit came into force.

Passengers carry luggage while travelling during the Christmas period.
If you're planning to travel between the UK and Italy this Christmas, the rules on taking festive goodies with you have changed. Photo: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP

If you’re heading home to spend Christmas with family or they’re coming out to stay with you, be aware of the rules regarding food and drink, and what you can and can’t bring in and out of Britain and the EU.

Some rules changed for the first time last year following Brexit and many are still catching up with the changes, so read the Local’s guide below to make sure you aren’t caught out at customs.

Flying to the UK from Italy

For those returning to the UK from Italy, the rules are relatively lax.

Note, if you’re spending Christmas in Northern Ireland there are different rules on food and animal products. Find them here

You can bring the following products from Italy into the UK without worrying about any restrictions:

  • bread, but not sandwiches filled with meat or dairy products
  • cakes without fresh cream
  • biscuits
  • chocolate and confectionery, but not those made with unprocessed dairy ingredients
  • pasta and noodles, but not if mixed or filled with meat or meat products
  • packaged soup, stocks and flavourings
  • processed and packaged plant products, such as packaged salads and frozen plant material
  • food supplements containing small amounts of an animal product, such as fish oil capsules

Meat, dairy, fish and animal products

If, like many of us, you have friends and family already putting in their orders for Italian treats, know that the rules on bringing meat, dairy, fish and other animal products into the UK are relatively relaxed. 

You can bring in meat, fish, dairy and other animal products as long as they’re from the EU, so your Parmigiano Reggiano or finocchiona is safe. 

Note that you can’t bring in these foods from another non-EU country when travelling to the UK with a connecting flight via Italy.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What the EU’s new EES system means for travel to Italy

Your friends and relatives in the UK won’t have to go without Italian cheese and salumi this Christmas. Photo: Getty Images/AFP

Alcohol allowance

For many, the big one, but there are some limits on how much booze you can bring in from Italy and the EU more generally.

How much you can bring depends on the type of alcohol, so get up to speed on the limits and make sure your Prosecco or Barolo isn’t taken off you or heavily taxed:

Limits:

  • beer – 42 litres
  • still wine – 18 litres
  • spirits and other liquors over 22 percent alcohol – 4 litres
  • sparkling wine, fortified wine (port, sherry etc) and other alcoholic drinks up to 22 percent alcohol (not including beer or still wine) – 9 litres

It’s worth knowing that you can split your allowance, for example you could bring 4.5 litres of fortified wine and 2 litres of spirits (both half of your allowance).

Tobacco allowance 

When bringing tobacco into the UK from Italy, you can bring in one from the following:

  • 200 cigarettes
  • 100 cigarillos
  • 50 cigars
  • 250g tobacco
  • 200 sticks of tobacco for electronic heated tobacco devices

As with alcohol, you can split the allowance – so, the UK government specifies, you could bring in 100 cigarettes and 25 cigars (both half of your allowance).

Flying into Italy from the UK

While British borders are laid back when it comes to travelling with food and drink, the rules on food and drink are much tougher when entering the EU from the UK.

Importantly, tea bags – longed for by Brits the world over – are allowed. Marmite, which is vegan, is also OK but Bovril, which contains beef stock, is not.

Travellers arriving in the EU from Britain can, according to the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC), bring the following quantities of alcohol, so if you fancy a British tipple in Italy over Christmas it is possible, within reason: 4 litres of still wine and 16 litres of beer, 1 litre of spirits, or 2 litres of sparkling or fortified wine.

READ ALSO: ‘Not just extra paperwork’: What it’s like moving to Italy after Brexit

Italy is generous when it comes to importing tobacco products; the EU has a lower limit and a higher limit, and Italy has opted for the higher limit. That means you can bring any of 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars, or 250g of smoking tobacco.

If you arrive in the EU from a non-EU country, you cannot bring any meat or dairy products with you. That means no Wensleydale, no Cornish Brie, and no British bacon to enjoy in Italy over Christmas.

The EU’s strict rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products technically come under these rules, so even chocolate is now banned because of the milk.

Don’t pack mince pies if you’re travelling from the UK to the EU. Photo: Daniel Norris/Pixabay

Similarly, if you’re planning on asking a friend or family member to bring you over some sweets, cakes, or other home comforts, be aware that the ban includes all products that contain any meat or dairy as an ingredient – which includes things like chocolate, fudge, custard and sweets (because of the gelatine.)

You are allowed to bring a small quantity of fruit and vegetables as well as eggs, some egg products, and honey. 

Restricted quantities of fish or fish products are also allowed: eviscerated fresh fish products (gutted, with all the organs removed), and processed fishery products are allowed up to 20 kg or 1 fish, so you can enjoy some Scottish smoked salmon in Italy over Christmas if you want.

If you’re travelling with kids, note that powdered infant milk, infant food and specifically required medical foods are allowed up to 2kg, as is the case for pet foods.

READ ALSO: How Brexit will affect the postal service between Italy and the UK over Christmas

Even classics like Christmas pudding and mince pies are banned because they contain suet, so if you’re planning on a British-style Christmas abroad, these won’t be making an appearance this year.

It is worth noting that these strict EU rules also apply when sending products by post, so if you were hoping to get around the newly applicable legislation by having someone send you a delivery of mince pies, they will probably be intercepted and confiscated by Italy’s postal service, unfortunately. 

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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