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7 Jan 2021

Brexit deal: what it means for food, prices, consumer rights and more

What the UK-EU deal is changing and how it will affect you
Which? explains how the Brexit deal will affect yo

A trade deal has been agreed between the UK and the EU. We look at what it means for you and what to look out for.

The deal was announced by officials on Christmas Eve and it means that the UK will avoid much of the disruption associated with a no-deal Brexit.

Which?, as the UK's consumer association, has analysed the deal to explain what it means for you.

What the Brexit deal means for holidays and travelling in Europe

Much of the current restrictions on travel are due to COVID-19 related disruption; the deal allows flights, ferries, trains and buses to continue largely as normal.

However, there are a number of new requirements for travelers:

  • You won't need a visa to visit the EU (and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) for up to 90 days, in a 180-day period. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania won't count visits to other EU countries in your 90-day total.
  • You will need at least six months validity left on your passport, and not more than 10 years, when travelling to the EU (except for Ireland, which is in the Common Travel Area).

Rights and limits

  • EU flight delay compensation rules will continue to apply to flights entering and leaving the UK , and between EU destinations (you don't need to be an EU citizen).
  • You'll have to pay customs charges if you bring back more than 42 litres of beer, plus 18 litres of wine and four litres of spirits, and up to 200 cigarettes

Health and driving

  • Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can continue to be used for as long as it is valid, although travel insurance is still important.
  • The Government intends to introduce a new 'UK Global Health Insurance Card' in the new year.
  • If you drive in the EU, you'll need a insurance green card, which you can request from your insurer (this can take up to six weeks).
  • If you drive to the EU, you'll need a GB sticker on your car.

Look out for: roaming charges

Roam like at home, which limits the potential cost of phone bills when you use your mobile in Europe, is no longer guaranteed.

Whilst several networks have said they won't re-impose charges, it's important that you check with your provider before travelling.

You mobile network must cap your charges at £45, unless you choose to spend more.

What the Brexit deal means for shopping, food and prices

The trade deal means that no tariffs will apply to food and goods traded between the UK and EU, adverting fears of immediate price rises in shops.

The main effects will be felt by people who buy from EU sellers:

  • Your consumer rights when shopping online from EU sellers haven't changed, but it is unlikely you will be able to enforce your rights in the EU via UK courts
  • Customs duties (for deliveries worth over £390), VAT (over £135) and handling fees could also apply and parcels might be held in post offices until all duties and fees have been paid.
  • If you return an item to an EU seller, you'll need to include a CN22 customs form (for items worth less than £270) or a CN23 form (over £270)

Look out for: payment surcharges

UK companies can't charge you more depending on how you pay, such as by credit card instead of debit card.

However, EU companies are now permitted to charge UK citizens more depending on how they pay.

Also look out for a currency conversion charge from your card provider if you're paying in Euros. If you buy often from the EU, consider getting a no-fee travel credit card.

Is it a good deal for consumers?

To work for consumers, a deal must pass the four tests we outlined back in 2018 in our Consumer Charter for Brexit.

Over time we'll be able to judge the effects of the UK-EU trade deal: in the short term we'll report on any examples of consumers being disadvantaged.

The UK is also negotiating deals with several countries, which also need to pass our tests. These include the USA, Australia and New Zealand; a deal with Japan has already been agreed in principle.

Deals should not have a negative impact on safety and quality standards, product choice, consumer rights and prices.

Which? is actively involved in pushing for deals that benefit consumers: read more about our work around trade deals and how they affect you here.

Where can I read more about the deal?

We've put together a Brexit advice hub, which brings together all our advice when it comes to shopping, money and travel.

If you'd like, you can read the UK Government summary and the full 1,246-page deal text.