It was the absence of chicken tikka mini-fillets (two packs for €7) at their regional Marks and Spencer that assisted convey household the harsh actuality of Brexit to British and anglophile Parisians in the early times of the new yr. 

In its place of the chicken — or lentil, couscous and goat-cheese salad, or pear and blackberry yoghurt from western England — consumers discovered these signs in the vacant M&S coolers: “Due to new Uk/EU import laws, we’re sorry some of your favourites might be lacking. We’re doing work tricky to get them back again quickly.”

Judging from social media, the howls of anguish from Parisian aficionados of British meals ought to have been audible from the Bois de Boulogne to the Bois de Vincennes, not the very least for the reason that places to eat are not able to take diners on their premises and France is below a pandemic curfew.

You could possibly feel this land of gourmets and haute delicacies is the past position exactly where persons would look for overseas food. But there is no accounting for expatriate appetites. 

Returning to Hong Kong from residence, Australians eagerly pack containers of Tim Tams, a variety of chocolate biscuit. Arriving at New Delhi airport from Europe, a mate as soon as smuggled a leg of Spanish cured ham in a cricket bag. In advance of Brexit, our daughters utilised to acquire the Eurostar from London weighed down with Marmite and Alpen, available at Le Bon Marché in Paris but at exorbitant charges.

Even the French have been identified to relish foreign meals. It is a surprising fact that France has much more than 1,400 McDonald’s stores, which will make it 1 of the company’s major marketplaces outside the US. And a lot of shoppers trying to get crumpets, scones or clotted cream at the 18 M&S shops in Paris are not British but French.

The empty cabinets propose that British food stuff exporters had been sick-prepared for the EU customs and health controls that came into outcome on January 1. And the new trade “friction” across the Channel does not have an effect on only thwarted Parisian customers of hen tikka or the motorists whose ham sandwiches had been confiscated by Dutch customs officers at the Hook of Holland ferry terminal with a cheery: “Welcome to Brexit, sir, I’m sorry.”

Confusion in excess of the EU’s import rules for foodstuff have disrupted supplies of Scottish langoustines and other British isles seafood to France in the latest months. The supposedly “tariff-free” EU-United kingdom trade offer agreed on Christmas Eve turns out to be tricky and possibly not wholly tariff-absolutely free even for much larger companies this sort of as M&S.

British isles exporters to the EU complain that the policies they now have to utilize are of thoughts-boggling complexity, unsuitable for the just-in-time, cross-Channel operations of supermarkets and refreshing-food merchants, since each individual merchandise of food stuff and drink has to be declared independently.

Even the Percy Pig sweets displayed at M&S checkouts in Paris seem to drop foul of “rules of origin” requirements, which signify that items exported tariff-no cost to the EU will have to have a minimum amount British isles content material or have been at least partly processed in the United kingdom. Percy Pigs are produced in Germany and despatched to the United kingdom for redistribution to British — and French and Irish — M&S retailers. 

“The scope, ambiguity and complexity all over procedures of origin impose a tariff stress which will effect British businesses,” said Steve Rowe, M&S main government, even if large companies created “time-consuming workarounds”. 

So the Parisians who count on M&S — I count the extra-potent tea bags and the Greenwich Winter season Spiced Porter among the irreplaceable products on sale on the Avenue Franklin D Roosevelt — are ready nervously for what happens following. 

Georgina Wright of the Institut Montaigne in Paris claims that two decades back her Brussels-based mothers and fathers, who appreciated their digestive biscuits, were dismayed by a spherical of M&S shop closures in Europe. Now she wonders if the short term absence of M&S sandwiches in Paris hazards becoming everlasting. 

In the conclude, the chicken tikka crisis comes down to the one of a kind perversity of the Brexit offer. “It is,” claims Ms Wright, “the very first trade settlement in heritage that seeks to elevate trade boundaries instead than lower them.”

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