Unless a new trade deal can be agreed in the next few days between the EU and the UK, it will be forbidden after 1 January to enter the EU with a British cheese sandwich.
In fact, the interdiction goes further than one lunch option. Under EU law, it is not allowed for individuals to enter the Union with any meat or dairy product, the British government has announced.
The same products in export quantities will be allowed under trade terms, with the need for licences and the payment of import duties.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in London took the example of the sandwich to advise the public on the new rules.
“Drivers travelling to the EU should be aware of additional restrictions to personal imports taking effect from 1 January 2021,” the department said in a statement.
“If you are carrying prohibited items in your luggage, vehicle or person you will need to use, consume, or dispose of them at or before the border. From 1 January 2021 you will not be able to 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 new rule is likely to affect one section of the population more than most: lorry drivers. Whatever lorry drivers may be carrying in their trucks, they will almost certainly be carrying a packed lunch in the cabin, in some cases enough to last several days, one fleet operator explained.
“The thing is, when drivers are going to Europe they pack up their box for days and weeks” Simon Wilkinson told the Guardian. “The tractor [the cab of the trailer] is basically their home from home. You have microwaves, the works, in your tractor so that if you do get stuck, or if you are away for a week if you are going somewhere like Spain, you are self-sufficient.”
The European Commission, meanwhile, justified the ban on grounds of biosecurity.
“Personal goods containing meat, milk or their products brought into the EU continue to present a real threat to animal health throughout the union,” a spokesperson said.
“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 also specified that the ban applies equally to sandwiches made at home and to those bought in shops or motorway services.