Brexit Leaves British Personnel In Germany Without Their Favourite Groceries From Home

Since the transition period ended, shops supplying British groceries say they have struggled with extra paperwork and import difficulties.

Some British military personnel and veterans in Germany are being left without their favourite grocery items due to Brexit.

Little England, a convenience store located in Sennelager, was established to supply British veterans in Germany with items from home but now there are gaps on the shelves.

Since the Brexit transition period ended on 31 December, the shop has struggled with complex paperwork and delayed deliveries. 

Andy Easton, a British Army veteran, told Forces News: "There's nothing left which is, for a lot of people, upsetting."

Monica Eichler, the owner of Little England, used to drive to the UK, buy stock and bring it back to Germany.

However, this is no longer possible and Ms Eichler told Forces News the red tape is overwhelming, adding that she has "gone through eight customs clearance agents".

Little England convenience food store in Sennelager, Germany 200521 CREDIT BFBS
The Little England convenience store in Sennelager, Germany.

"They all say it's too difficult and too much work," she said.

"You order your stock and you sit and wait.  

"There's nothing else you can do." 

Ms Eichler has found German suppliers for British crisps, shortbread and British tea, as well as commissioning a butcher to cure British-style bacon.

"The price is a bit shocking… in comparison to a year ago, but we’ve got Brexit, I’m afraid," she said.  

The shop has also survived on its last consignment of goods from Britain, which arrived just hours before the country left the EU's single market and customs union.

"We ended up with something like about 15 pallets at once, so that's basically what has kept us alive so far," she said.

To end the uncertainty of importing British goods into Germany there is the option of ordering from Ireland.

"I have a few contacts in Ireland but I want to stay by the British produce.... it's Little England and not Little Ireland," Ms Eichler said.  

Watch: How has Brexit affected NAAFI?

However with each delivery costing thousands of euros in agency fees, there may be little choice.

British veterans told Forces News that, whatever happens, they intend to remain loyal to Little England.

Former soldier Paul Larmouth told Forces News: "When I come in here and if I can't find what I actually want, I'll buy something else because you've got to help the small businesses keep going."

Another shop for British veterans and serving personnel has been hit with similar issues.

NAAFI in Sennelager has been confronted with complex paperwork and difficulties importing animal products into the European Union.

John Goddard, NAAFI's director of operations, told Forces News this "generally" applies to any item with "any percentage of animal product in it".

NAAFI sign outside shop in Sennelager, Germany 190521 CREDIT BFBS
The NAAFI store in Sennelager has also been impacted by Brexit.

"Brexit, we hope, is a once in a lifetime thing but it's clear that: don't always assume that, for as much research as you've done, that it's all going to go swimmingly well.

"Be ready with your contingencies, be ready with a back-up plan."

Some items have not disappeared entirely, with corned beef coming from the Netherlands.

There is also local bacon, although NAAFI still has a stockpile of frozen British bacon.

However, German dairy products have replaced British equivalents.

"I’ve bought the German milk that we've brought in from our local supplier and guess what? It tastes like milk," Mr Goddard said.

Not everything can be easily substituted though, and the NAAFI is liaising with the British and German authorities and has confidence the restrictions could soon be eased.

"I think it will be a number of weeks before we get into the position where we're in a better place and all those products that people are asking for: sausage rolls, sausages…  are back on the shelf," Mr Goddard said. 

"We're confident British bangers will return."

A Government spokesperson said: "Whilst the vast majority are adjusting well to new trading arrangements, we are ensuring businesses get the support they need to trade effectively with Europe and to seize new opportunities as we strike trade deals with the world's fastest growing markets.

"As well as operating export helplines, running webinars with experts and offering businesses support via our network of 300 international trade advisers, we have launched the £20m SME Brexit Support fund and are delaying full import border checks until 1 January 2022.

"The latest trade statistics show a welcome increase and continued recovery in the value of trade between the UK and EU, with goods exports almost returning to December 2020 levels and now exceeding the average levels across 2020."