"Welcome to Brexit, sir," one customs official stated. "I'm sorry."

By Mike Pomranz
January 12, 2021
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Smuggling meat across international borders is practically a British pastime. If you haven't heard a story about getting caught at U.S. customs with a pork pie, you probably haven't talked to enough Brits! But with Brexit becoming official on January 1, anyone traveling from the United Kingdom to Europe is finding out that being busted with illegal meat is suddenly easier than ever—and even a simple ham sandwich is not above being seized.

Credit: Sam Armstrong/Getty Images

As of New Year's Day, personal imports of meat and dairy products from the United Kingdom are now banned in the European Union, and The Guardian reports that Dutch officials have been seen confiscating ham sandwiches and other packable goodies from drivers arriving from England into the Netherlands by ferry. "You are no longer allowed to bring certain foods to Europe, like meat, fruit, vegetables, fish, that kind of stuff," one border official told a driver in a clip from the national Dutch TV station NPO 1. Another quipped, "Welcome to Brexit, sir. I'm sorry."

Coincidentally (or maybe purposefully) enough, on the UK government webpage providing guidance on transporting goods between Great Britain and the EU, ham sandwiches are specifically mentioned. "You cannot 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 government writes. "If you are carrying prohibited items in your luggage, vehicle or person you need to use, consume, or dispose of them at or before the border."

Dutch officials issued a reminder as well. "Since 1 January, you can't just bring more food from the UK," they were quoted as saying. "So prepare yourself if you travel to the Netherlands from the UK and spread the word. This is how we prevent food waste and together ensure that the controls are speeded up."

Long story short: Next time you set off from England, leave your ham sandwiches at home. And that goes for pork pies too. Europe definitely doesn't want to see that British pub staple.