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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Hamming it up on the front line

Amongst all the dire news about COVID 19 this morning a number of the papers are featuring this gem about a British lorry driver having his ham sandwich confiscated by customs officials. As petty as this may seen, it represents the reality of Brexit. We are no longer part of a single trade area and if we want to enter the EU then the same rules apply as if we were travelling to the USA or Australia.However, this truth has not yet pervaded the consciousness of a great many people.

Presumably that is why there was a Dutch TV network filming border officials confiscating ham sandwiches and other foods from drivers arriving in the Netherlands from the UK, under post-Brexit rules. These officials were shown explaining import regulations imposed since the UK formalised its separation from the EU:

Under EU rules, travellers from outside the bloc are banned from bringing in meat and dairy products.

The rules appeared to bemuse one driver.

"Since Brexit, you are no longer allowed to bring certain foods to Europe, like meat, fruit, vegetables, fish, that kind of stuff," a Dutch border official told the driver in footage broadcast by TV network NPO 1.

In one scene, a border official asked the driver whether several of his tin-foil wrapped sandwiches had meat in them.

When the driver said they did, the border official said: "Okay, so we take them all."

Surprised, the driver then asked the officials if he could keep the bread, to which one replied: "No, everything will be confiscated - welcome to the Brexit, sir. I'm sorry."

The question of course is why were these professional drivers not better briefed on the realities of the new arrangements and the reasons for it make total sense:

The UK government has issued guidance to commercial drivers travelling to the EU, warning them to "be aware of additional restrictions to personal imports".

"You cannot bring POAO (products of an animal origin) such as those containing meat or dairy (e.g. a ham and cheese sandwich) into the EU," the guidance says. "There are exceptions to this rule for certain quantities of powdered infant milk, infant food, special foods, or special processed pet feed."

On its website, the European Commission says the ban is necessary because such goods "continue to present a real threat to animal health throughout the Union".

"It is known, for example, that dangerous pathogens that cause animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease and classical swine fever can reside in meat, milk or their products," the Commission says.

No doubt there will be further examples in the weeks and months to come.
The Netherlands officials may be in the right on this occasion, but Brexit and border controls gives the opportunity to jobsworths on the continent who may not have the same warm feelings towards the UK as the EU negotiators to go beyond their nominal powers and make themselves right nuisances.
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