By Rory Tingle and Ross Ibbetson For Mailonline and Sean Poulter for the Daily Mail

Published: 08:10 GMT, 22 January 2021 | Updated: 20:45 GMT, 22 January 2021

Shipping goods either way across the UK-EU border now takes longer and is more expensive since the UK left the EU’s Customs Union and Single Market. 

Since January 1 a new customs regime has been in place that treats the UK as an external ‘third country’ for goods being imported and exported into and out of the EU. 

Although the terms of the free trade deal mean there are no tariffs or quotas, the small print of the deal imposes new red tape and charges for goods being moved across the border.  

Customs clearance charges must now be paid, while many couriers also add on postal or handling fees to account for the extra paperwork they now need to process.  

VAT is payable by businesses when they bring goods into the UK. Goods that are exported by UK businesses to the EU are zero-rated, meaning that UK VAT is not charged at the point of sale.

And once they arrive at the ports, there are new checks by officials which also slow down the transport process. 

The extra time taken for goods to cross the border means some shipments have been delayed. 

That means that in addition to extra fees at the border goods are also taking longer to travel from retailer to customer – complicating the situation further.  

High Street retailers and luxury brands may burn items returned by EU customers that are now stuck in European warehouses rather than bringing them back to the UK to avoid the cost and hassle of Brexit red tape.

EU consumers buying a coat, a pair of boots or any other product from a UK-based retailer now have to pay charges including import duties and courier or postal handling fees following Britain’s exit from the Customs Union and Single Market. 

Some of the same costs and red tape also apply to British customers buying products that have been shipped from the EU – adding a third to the cost of online orders and slowing down deliveries due to extra checks at ports.

Customers in the EU are being asked to pay the extra costs by couriers when the goods reach their door, so many are rejecting them to avoid paying the bill. Figures from data firm Statista show that 30% of orders are now being returned.  

Four major UK High Street fashion retailers are have begun stockpiling returns at warehouses in Belgium, Ireland and Germany, reported the BBC. One brand will incur charges of almost £20,000 to get the returns back.  

Apart from the charges, businesses need to also complete Customs declaration forms detailing the contents, their origin and value to get goods through ports. 

UK Fashion & Textile Association chief Adam Mansell said retailers may now find it cheaper to simply dispose of the items at the EU warehouses rather than pay to have them shipped back to Britain. 

He said: ‘It’s part of the ongoing small print of the deal. If you’re in Germany and buying goods from the UK, you as the German customer are the importer bringing goods into the EU.

‘You then have a courier company knocking on the door giving you a customs clearance invoice that you need to pay to receive your goods.’

Mr Mansell said further customs paperwork facing UK retailers when goods are returned includes an ‘export clearance charge, import charge arrival, import VAT charge and, depending on the goods, a rules of origin document as well. Lots of large businesses don’t have a handle on it, never mind smaller ones.’

After the UK’s exit from the Customs Union and Single Market goods now face extra checks at the border. This is slowing down the flow of lorries (pictured are queues at Dover today)  

There are large queues at Dover today as lorry drivers face longer checks on their goods  

Clothes shopper Louisa Walters, 52, was asked for £77.23 in tax, duties and charges after splashing out more than £240 on two items of clothing from Paris-based Sandro

Journalist Susannah Butter said she had been asked to pay more than £100 by a UPS delivery man 

Clothes shopper Louisa Walters, 52, was asked for £77.23 in tax, duties and charges after splashing out more than £240 on two items of clothing from Paris-based Sandro.

It broke down to £24.50 in duty, £46.73 in VAT and £6 in charges from DPD.

The duty suggests the goods, at least partially, originated from outside the EU. It’s not clear if a sales tax was levied on the original order.

‘DPD offered me two options – pay the fees or return the package. There was no way I was paying £77 so I clicked to not accept the package. I was very disappointed,’ she told The Times.

British shoppers today complained about being hit with punishing ‘Brexit fees’ on purchases from Europe, which could add more than third to the cost of a new outfit.  

Londoner, Ellie Huddleston, aged 26, found the charges added up to £82 for a £200 coat and another £58 for a selection of blouses that had a list price of £180.

Lisa Walpole, from Norfolk, was told to pay £121 in relation to a £236 clothes order she made from the Norwegian website, which specialises in premium jumpsuits.

And Helen Kara, from Uttoxeter in Staffordshire, was hit with a bill for £93 after purchasing £292 worth of bed linen from, which is based in Berlin.

 Ms Huddleston said she was surprised by the fees, which were notified by the two international courier firms who were handling the shipments.

‘I didn’t even know when the parcels would be coming – so I sent both back without paying the extra fees and won’t be ordering anything from Europe again any time soon,’ she told the BBC.

One of the biggest problems is that people shopping with an EU-based store online find it difficult, if not impossible, to understand how much the extra charges will add up to.

A man who paid £300 to buy two pairs of suede winter boots from a German firm online was told by UPS that he would have to come up with another £147 before they would deliver.

There are more forms to fill in before lorries arrive at the Channel and other crossings following the UK’s exit from the Customs Union and Single Market. 

And once they arrive at the ports, there are new checks by officials which also slow down the transport process. 

For UK retailers, it means there is a slowdown in receiving stock from the EU. It takes longer for European hauliers to get here, and UK-based lorries are slowed down on the way out and then slowed down on the return trip as well.

The most immediate problems are with perishable goods – food and drink. Alcoholic drinks and staples including broccoli, tomatoes and cheese have been in short supply because they are imported from manufacturers in Europe.

The import problem is most acute for perishable foods. Fish and shellfish that are sold to European markets are decomposing in the back of lorries because of the time taken to get across. And now the problem is affecting other, more robust foods, like meat and vegetables, which are rotting on the dockside. 

Scottish seafood firms last week warned they are just ‘days from collapse’ unless emergency cash is paid out to compensate for the Brexit border chaos. 

Hauliers have also faced difficulties transporting stock to Ulster under the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Brexit deal. 

The protocol is designed to allow Northern Ireland to follow the EU’s customs rules to prevent the establishment of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

But this has caused delays at the ports on either side of the Irish Sea because of new declarations and checks.   

The unnamed man told the BBC: ‘It was virtually impossible to find out what the charges would be beforehand, so I had to take a shot in the dark. I didn’t imagine that it would be half as much again.’ Under the new rules, anyone in the UK receiving a gift from the EU worth more than £39 may now face a bill for import VAT – with many items charged at 20per cent.

For goods costing more than £135, customs duties may also apply, which can range from 0-25per cent of the purchase price.

The extra charges are usually collected by the courier on behalf of the government, with customers asked to pay before they can pick up their package. Because of the new red tape and costs involved, most courier firms add a handling fee, so pushing up the bill even more.

The costs and complexity of the new regime means that some EU businesses have decided to suspend selling items to UK consumers.

Courier industry expert, David Jinks, the Head of Consumer Research at ParcelHero, said: ‘Now the UK has left the EU’s single market I’m afraid shoppers buying from EU stores should expect the unexpected.

‘Despite the fact Boris Johnson claimed he had secured a ‘cakeist’ free trade deal, meaning Britain can actually have its cake and eat it, there are, in fact, a bunch of new fees that may need to be paid on parcels arriving from the EU.

The Government said: ‘We have encouraged companies new to dealing with customs declarations to appoint a specialist to deal with import and export declarations on their behalf – and we made more than £80m available to expand the capacity of the customs agents market.

‘The Government will continue to work closely with businesses to ensure they are able to trade effectively under the new rules.’ 

British customers are also liable to be hit with further duties if the goods originated, even partially, outside the EU.

The delivery companies are then whacking their own additional charges on top – 2.5 per cent of the VAT charge in the case of DHL – to cover their administrative fees.  

It is believed that the issues can be ironed out over the next few months as more EU retailers register with HMRC.

But some have pulled the plug on their UK operations altogether in the wake of Brexit.    

These are four examples of products ordered by UK customers from EU firms that have now gone up in price due to Brexit charges and red tape 

And Helen Kara, from Uttoxeter in Staffordshire, was hit with a bill for £93 after purchasing £292 worth of bed linen from, which is based in Berlin (pictured is the firm’s website) 

Lisa Walpole, from Norfolk, was told to pay £121 in relation to a £236 clothes order she made from the Norwegian website, which specialises in premium jumpsuits

The Brexit trade deal has seen many European customers rejecting goods imported from the UK after being presented with unexpected customs paperwork and charges when signing for them

It comes after it emerged yesterday the EU is demanding that Boris Johnson abandon his plans for a ‘Singapore on Thames’ before they will grease the wheels at the ports. 

The bloc is said to be open to discussing how to reduce friction, with shoppers complaining of shortages at UK and French supermarkets as post-Brexit red tape has hit supplies in and out of Britain. 

UK Fashion & Textile Association chief Adam Mansell said it was often cheaper for British retailers to dump goods being returned from Europe rather than deal with them

It emerged that up to 200 lorries a day are being turned back from UK crossings into the EU because they lack the proper paperwork.

Emma Churchill, the head of the border and protocol delivery group at the Cabinet Office, said between 3 per cent and 8 per cent of HGVs – 100 to 200 vehicles a day –  were being refused permission to enter the continent. 

But EU diplomats have suggested that they will make moves to ease problems if Mr Johnson keeps the UK close to rules made in Brussels and ditches any plans to emulate the growth of the Asian trade powerhouse on its doorstep.

Singapore is a low tax economy and shipping fulcrum in Asia and ministers are believed to see its model as a way to reshape the UK after Brexit. 

A senior European diplomat told the Times that ‘of course we can in future discuss how to have less friction’, but they added: ‘Discussing further facilitation or ways to reduce friction would depend on what the UK is doing and where they want to go. 

‘Initiating that conversation and negotiation will not be made easier if the other side of the table is talking up deregulation or Singapore on the Thames.’  

There are large queues at Dover today as lorry drivers face longer checks on their goods  

Lorry drivers have reportedly been warned that tailbacks at ports could get worse in the coming days as traffic returns to normal levels

Shoppers in the UK have reported shortages of some items in domestic supermarkets after Britain split from Brussels at the start of the year. 

Items seemingly in short supply have included cauliflower packs, citrus fruit, courgettes, French wine and brie. 

Meanwhile, M&S stores in France have faced supply issues and millions of pounds worth of meat exports from the UK have been left to rot in ports on the continent because of new border rules.  

Northern Ireland has also experienced food shortages but ministers have previously been insistent problems were not Brexit-related. 

Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis said empty shelves had ‘nothing to do with leaving the EU’ as he blamed the coronavirus crisis. 

But Ms Truss, the International Trade Secretary, has now said Brexit is partly to blame, putting her at odds with her Cabinet colleague.       

She told ITV’s Peston programme: ‘Well, I think it is down to both of those issues. Of course we were always clear that we are leaving the single market, we are leaving the customs unions, there would be processes to be undertaken.

‘We are now seeing a more rapid flow of goods into Northern Ireland and those supermarket shelves are being stocked.

‘Of course there was always going to be a period of adjustment for businesses but at the same time the benefits of having the trade deal we now have with the EU is we are able to strike trade deals with the rest of the world.’ 

Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, said problems in Northern Ireland were ‘down to both’ Brexit and coronavirus

Her comments were in response to Simon Coveney, the Irish Foreign Minister, who said food shortages in Northern Ireland were ‘clearly a Brexit issue’.  

He told the same programme: ‘I don’t think it is only to do with Covid-19 although certainly that doesn’t help but the supermarket shelves were full before Christmas and there are some issues now in terms of supply chains and so that is clearly a Brexit issue.

‘It is part of the reality of the United Kingdom now being outside not only the European Union but of the customs union and the single market as well.

‘What we have in place in Northern Ireland is a protocol which effectively de-facto creates an extension of the EU’s single market for goods into Northern Ireland even though Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom is outside of the EU.

‘That requires a certain amount of checks on goods coming from GB into Northern Ireland and that involves some disruption that I think companies will take some time to get used to and that is what we are seeing at the moment, some companies simply weren’t ready for the change that Brexit brings, it is a very real change.’

Mr Lewis said earlier this week that shortages of some products in the weeks since the post-Brexit transition period ended on December 31 were due to the knock-on effects of UK trade with continental Europe being temporarily halted due to concerns over the new Kent variant of coronavirus.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘That’s actually something we’ve seen across other parts of the UK as well, nothing to do with leaving the EU, nothing to do with the Northern Irish protocol but actually to do with some of the challenges we saw with Covid at the port of Dover just before Christmas and the impact that had on supply lines coming through.

Ministers have admitted that post-Brexit rules are partly to blame for empty shelves in Northern Ireland supermarkets

The Northern Ireland Protocol between the UK and the EU requires health certifications on animal-based food products entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

A Whitehall source added: ‘Brandon has been clear that it is important to put these issues in context. There were multiple challenges for businesses trading across the UK, including Northern Ireland, over Christmas and into the New Year.

‘That wasn’t unique to Northern Ireland and was unrelated to the Protocol. Those challenges included staff shortages due to coronavirus, NI being at the end of the supply chain and the issues we saw at Dover before Christmas. 

‘This was compounded by a period of adjustment as businesses adapted to new processes for trade from GB to NI. The flow of goods under the Protocol is now smooth overall and individual issues are being addressed quickly by relevant departments.’ 

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News – High Street retailers and luxury brands are BURNING or EU products