The following items are prohibited or restricted, although some may be imported with a special licence:
- Controlled drugs (e.g. opium, heroin, ecstasy, morphine, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines, and LSD), explosives (including fireworks), firearms (including gas pistols, electric shock batons and similar weapons), flick knives and some martial arts weapons. The holder of a British firearm or shotgun certificate may import a weapon into England, Wales or Scotland. Customs instructs that such a person contact the national advice line in advance. It’s illegal to own a handgun in the UK and the ownership of other guns has also been curtailed.
- Most animals and all birds, whether alive or dead (e.g. stuffed) and certain articles derived from protected species, including ivory, reptile leather, fur skins and goods made from them. It’s a criminal offence to attempt to smuggle an animal into the UK and it’s almost always discovered. Illegally imported animals are either exported immediately or destroyed and the owners are always prosecuted. They face (and invariably receive) a heavy fine (e.g. £500) and/or up to a year’s imprisonment. The introduction of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) has made it both easier and cheaper to bring in some pets legally. For more information: the Pet Travel Scheme Helpline, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Area 201, 1a Page Street, London SW1P 4PQ (0870-241 1710, www.defra.gov.uk).
- Pornographic material which isn’t freely available in the UK.
- Meat, poultry and most of their products (whether cooked or not), including ham, bacon, sausage, paté, eggs and milk. Certain fish or fish eggs are also prohibited.
- Certain plants, seeds, vegetables, bulbs and fruits, although it’s a complicated matter. The latest regulations can be obtained from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Plant Health Seeds Inspectorate, Room 334, Foss House, Kings Pool, York YO1 7PX (01904-455 174).
- Non-approved radio transmitters and cordless telephones.
If you’re caught trying to smuggle any goods that aren’t duty and tax free, customs may confiscate the goods, and if you hide them in your car, they can confiscate that as well! If you attempt to import prohibited items you may be liable to criminal charges or deportation.
This article is an extract from Living and working in Britain. Click here to get a copy now.