Removals & Storage Spain / UK / Ireland / France

Brexit horror stories

Use Indalo Transport for full customs management. and avoid any new brexit horror stories for your removals to & from Europe.

Table of contents


Brexit horror stories and removals to & from Europe explains fully how household removals between the UK and anywhere in the European Union have worked since Brexit. It explains the new rules, and also how Brexit horrors happened when we first the EU. If you’re looking for a removal to or from Spain, Indalo Transport and Indalo Storage in Spain will take care of everything for you. This prevents you from having to deal with any of the problems mentioned in this article.


It happened. After a 5 year wait, the UK left the European Union on December 31st 2020, and began 2021 as an independent sovereign state. This gave the UK control over its own borders, after 47 years as a member of what began as the EC. Following years of negotiation on an exit deal, it seemed like we would never reach agreement. However, the deal was struck on 24th December 2020, which was seven days to go until crashing out of the EU. The free trade agreement ‘deal’ signed allows goods and services to move freely. It will also keeps tariffs and import duties at zero for most things. However, there are now extra charges to be paid when trading with the EU, as we are a country outside of the largest trading bloc in the world, 

Just a few weeks into the new rules and we heard some horror stories, and a few things that are just plain bizarre.

Brexit Horror Stories

We heard lots of instances of vehicles prevented from crossing into Europe because they didn’t have the necessary paperwork in place. Also, vehicles impounded for days waiting for the correct clearance. We have heard how some major courier firms then suspended deliveries into the EU. The BBC even reported the incredible story of Dutch customs confiscating truckers’ packed lunches of ham and cheese sandwiches. All because the trade deal prevents the export of dairy products from the UK!

Dutch Customs Confiscate Truck Driver packed Lunches

It has been interesting to discover where removals sit in this brave new world of customs clearance, T1, T2 and SSD forms and more for transporters. Read on to find out what has changed from before brexit, and how we have dealt with the changes to an EU Removal of household goods.

A removal is technically classed as second hand personal goods. Therefore, you may think there wouldn’t be a problem moving your own furniture and possessions to your new home in the EU.  It is a shame that this isn’t the case.

Carry on reading Brexit horror stories & the future of removals to and from Spain for a full explanation of the customs process first. This will give you the background you need to understand how momentus the changes have been. I detail both imports and exports, and I have tried to explain it in an easy to understand manner.

Life ouside of the European Union

The technical bit!!

When moving to a new country anywhere in the world, you are moving your residence. Therefore your furniture and possessions are changing residency with you. But you are exporting and importing goods, because the UK is now independent and what is called a ‘third country’. To take goods out of a country, you need to export them. To bring them into another country, you must import them. This is the essence of customs clearance. The process entails assessing the value of your goods, and then you pay duty and VAT upon entry to the new country. Or you get tax and duty reliefs, to allow your goods to travel tariff and vat free.  Simple!

Export Process Flowchart

This is the Export Process in a flowchart

So we have gone from, before Brexit to no controls at all, and completely free movement to now, since Brexit, full export and import controls. In short, with anything concerning the EU, there is now a whole new layer of complex bureaucracy to comply with. The start of 2021 saw businesses adapting to a new regime of administration, border checks, customs inspections and regulation. And a seemingly endless amount of paperwork.

Indalo Transport were actively preparing for this change throughout 2020 and I’m happy to say that we had everything in place to ensure our customers enjoyed a hassle-free removal post Brexit.

So what has changed?

Brexit Horror stories and removals to & from Europe now means that the EU border no longer starts at British shores. As the UK is no longer part of the EU, we now enter Europe from the outside. This means we must do certain things before being allowed in.

No longer can anybody just load a van with furniture and head off across the channel.  Now, you must get customs clearance for the load, even if it is all your own stuff.  From now all removals to and from the EU will require in-depth inventories and packing lists. Each client will have to provide proof of identity,  residency and destination, and also provide monetary values for all their goods. Each removal firm is now registered with HMRC as an economic operator with an EORI number. They also need to register with the relevant European authorities, or use outside agencies to act on their behalf for the client in the countries they are delivering to.

The consequences of doing things wrong are enormous. Without customs clearance the removal will not even leave the country of export. The UK’s GMR or Goods Movemnent Reference is now the main way to control movements out of and into Great Britain. Trying to enter the EU with undeclared, or wrongly declared goods, will result in delays, fines, and goods being stranded.  If the transporter doesn’t have the correct licensing, insurance, and documentation, customs will impound the vehicle.

Import Process Flowchart

And the Import Process Flowchart – just as complex

The UK Department for Transport even informed all hauliers by email on 13th January 2021 that “French Customs have a zero-tolerance policy to HGV drivers without the correct import and export documentation for the goods they are carrying”

What if I moved my own goods?

Guardia Civil Road Block

The short answer is that the same rules apply. If someone loaded their own van with their own furniture, they are subject to the same rules. You cannot transport any goods into the into or out of the EU without customs clearance. UK registered commercial vehicles quickly became the biggest target for customs authorities. Fines for incorrect documentation and  failure to adhere to weight restrictions are very easy to enforce. UK vehicles are easy to spot and, even if they do get past the ports, are easy prey for the Guardia Civil.

Will I be taxed on the value of my furniture?

Possibly. If you are moving as a permanent resident (Transfer of Residency process) then you may not have to pay vat on the value of your goods in the country you are moving to. However, this is dependent on customs clearance being obtained and the relevant tax reliefs being applied for. If you are shipping used furniture to a holiday home where you don’t have residency, then vat will be payable on the declared value of those goods, plus transport cost.

Indalo Transport always applies for customs clearance for all our clients and we ensure that we obtain the correct reliefs, as part of our normal procedures.

What about sending new stuff to Spain?

Brexit Horror stories - the end of shipping new goods

An end to cheap furniture from the UK?

Before Brexit, Indalo Transport had a service delivering new items from the UK to Spain. The ability to save money by buying online in the UK was very attractive to many clients. It was a way to save money and have more choice. I am sorry to say that this is not possible under the new rules after Brexit. This is because customs clearance costs the same for a whole household as it does for one item. So this service is a victim of the new customs rules.

To put it in perspective, quite simply every individual client delivery needs customs clearance. From a small parcel right up to a big American Style Fridge Freezer or a garden furniture set.  And everything being imported into Spain will be subject to Spanish vat at 21% This tax is based on the invoice value plus the cost of transport. 

 A possible loophole around customs rules?

If you are a resident of Spain you may be able to buy things in the UK vat free. This is because supplies to countries outside of the UK are not subject to UK vat. However this will very much depend on the supplier. If successful, then you’ll only pay vat when the items get to Spain. Don’t forget though, that there will still be the cost of the customs clearance process.

Euros - Indalo Transport

And of course the cost of the removal itself. Therefore, Brexit Horror stories and removals to & from Europe means that, unfortunately, the delivery service for new goods ended with Brexit. It is now prohibitively expensive to buy single items in the UK and ship them to Spain.

Moving Forward

What happens now?

I think that the changes have had a profound effect on removals into Europe.


Spain is still a fabulous place to live, that’s why we’re here. I think these changes are trivial in comparison to the benefits offered by a life in the sun. A bit more red tape,  and a more expensive move shouldn’t be a deterrent.

However, the biggest changes were within the removals industry itself. It is very clear that customers choose their removals firm very carefully. Since brexit, there is a need to demonstrate competence dealing with tax authorities. 

UK companies that might have done a few European removals every year, before Brexit, now don’t bother. It involves too much work to prepare for the increased bureaucracy. They instead pass the work on to EU specialists, like Indalo Transport Ltd, who are able to easily undertake the work. 

Man and Van removals to Spain

Brexit Horror stories and removals to & from Europe

I must admit that I found it difficult to see a place in the market for the traditional ‘man and van’ after brexit. Customs rules mean the amount of smaller moves to Europe have decreased. This is due to more stringent rules for residency in a lot of countries in the EU. 

Following on from this, the industry as a whole now has a much more professional image, as smaller operators were not able to survive in European removals. Man and van only really now works at local levels, with operators forced to comply with local laws. 

Brexit Horror stories and removals to & from Europe was written by Mick Cox, founder of Indalo Transport and Indalo Storage.

Updated 19th May 2023 – first published 14th January 2021.

Indalo Transport operates regular trips between the UK, Ireland, France and Spain. We also have Storage Warehouses in Gosport (UK), Palomares (Spain) & Ireland. Our service and processes include all dealings with HMRC and other regulatory authorities in all countries, on behalf of our clients.

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