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On this page; United Kingdom Border AgencyBritish citizen's experiences crossing our bordersBorder protection. What do other countries do?Your allowancesYourFreedom – Nick Clegg

United Kingdom Border Agency. ACCESS, action for casualties of European shoppers seizures.

United Kingdom Border Agency – protecting our borders or targeting those within them?

Britain in Europe or East Germany?

- Your experiences / Webmasters experience / Comments made on Twitter about the UKBA / Groups fighting for your freedom -

Annual reports

A brief history of how our Government has increasingly restricted our freedom to travel.

HM Customs and Excise use to have the job of checking for excess Excise goods at our borders. They ceased to exist in 2004 and became HM Revenue and Customs (2005). In April 2008 the part of HMRC responsible for Customs controls at U.K. Ports was merged with the British Immigration Agency to form the UK Border Agency (UKBA). The UKBA is now in control of Customs at our ports and airports. In March 2012 the Home Secretary announced that the UKBA was to be split into two – we now have a the UK Border Force (UKBF) and the UKBA. British citizens who cross their countries borders will now have to contend with the UKBF, whose responsibilities include Customs issues.

The rules relating to appeals and the rights of Officers to demand passports, monitor your travel history etc. has changed for the worst. Most people assume it's to combat terrorism and crime, but the evidence strongly suggests the changes were to strengthen controls that affect U.K. Citizens shopping abroad. A disproportionately larger number of U.K. passport holders as opposed to foreigners are stopped or monitored for example.

This now means that we live in times when crossing the British border represents a real risk and can often prove to be a thoroughly upsetting experience for British citizens. Values we believe in; the right to a fair trial, the assumption of innocence until proven guilty, the right to a fair appeal, a total ban on civil servants assuming guilt without any evidence, a ban on civil servants asking questions that are intimidating or which could be considered entrapment, proportionate penalties for civil offenses, with demonstrably stricter and more severe penalties for real criminals, forbidding civil servants from interviewing husbands and wives separately unless there is clear and demonstrable evidence of wrongdoing or criminal activity.

August 2012 – Excellent, up to date advice.

April 2012 – It's getting worse! Anyone following Twitter and UKBA will be well aware how people are waiting up to three hours at London airports to get through passport control, due to poor staffing levels (apparently – we think the Unions are pulling a fast one – so much for serving the public). The service standard set by the Government suggests that U.K. and E.U. citizens should experience a maximum delay of 25 minutes (45 minutes for everyone else).

Recent article about the London airport problems.

March 2012 – More changes! The Border Force (UKBF) and the UK Border Agency (UKBA) will operate separately from now on (February 2012). The decision to split the two organisations was made by the Home Secretary Theresa May following the publication of the Vine Report. The new interim head of the Border Force is Chief Constable Brian Moore. He will lead the newly formed Home Office operational command that will be responsible for immigration and customs, including controls in France and Belgium.

February 2012 – Fightback! Our friends at Smoking Hot continue with their great work. Why not print these leaflets and give them to fellow shoppers / leave them on the ferry etc?.

We found it easier to download the pdf (opens up after download) – Back / Front.

January 2012 – Nothing to Declare, a wonderful group doing great things for shoppers fighting for their rights. Latest posting – another success!

December 2011 – It's Official! You CAN record your interviews, something we strongly advise all travellers to do, as in our experience, UKBA Officers lie, and frequently. Download this Freedom of Information letter (PDF).

November 2011 – From the Blog.

UKBA, will they wake up and smell the coffee?

It's been fascinating following the #UKBA debate on Twitter. Clearly a very large number of people, many #UKcitizens are fed up and not just with the situation at Dover. Seems the arrogance, rudeness, and offensive behaviour is fairly widespread. Like me no doubt, many #UKcitizens seriously question what the UKBA is really about. Follow our contribution to the debate

More ...

November 2011 – Well, it now seems clear the reason I have not been stopped since July, is that the Home Secretary Theresa May wanted the UKBA to concentrate on foreigners – GOOD! When appearing before the Home Office Committee today James Clappison MP hit out at UKBA for using obscure language "they do not use the English language, so much as murder it". More about UKBA speak and how to interpret it.

We hope people will now write to their MP's and MEP's and ask them to ensure the UKBA is about protecting this countries borders and not using it as the point at which they control those of us living within them.

October 1st 2011 – The guideline amounts, the point at which a U.K. official can question you have been reduced to E.U. levels (800 cigarettes and 1 Kg rolling tobacco). Your customs allowances.

July 2011 – Holiday time and the UKBA hard at it monitoring and controlling British citizens stupid enough to cross their own countries borders. I have now been stopped seven out of nine times crossing through Dover recently. Clearly not enough drugs, explosives and illegal asylum seekers passing through for them to occupy their time with. This time these thugs (someone who restricts their fellow citizens right to travel freely and without fear) and bullies (expect to be detained for laborious searches if you complain) excelled themselves. When I asked why I had been stopped again, I was told, in a manner I consider intimidating, to go into the sheds. I was then subject to the usual comment when I said "why do you keep stopping me", "don't be silly Sir, I personally did not stop you" (by a man wearing a UKBA uniform). They then suggested it was reasonable to be stopped and questioned (FOR CROSSING YOUR COUNTRIES BORDER?). When I said seven out of nine times was harassment, they kept quiet. Of course, in a manner which British citizens should consider threatening, my passport was taken away (again). Can someone tell me why I should not feel I am a member of The German Democratic Republic MkII, or even worse (as I suspect they are abusing their position by stopping me), a citizen of a banana Republic?

Of course they all run to organisations such as FOREST, set up by the tobacco companies as a foil to ASH, the anti smoking group, and like ASH in receipt of almost all its funding from one source. So much for popular support! We at Day-tripper will continue to fight for shoppers rights. After all, if our Government gets away with it, will they be fining us for having cars capable of breaking the speed limit before we even get in them, because they have reasonable grounds to suspect you may do so?"

So catastrophic has the failure to deal with smuggled and counterfeit tobacco that HMRC no longer produce an annual report. The last ones starting mentioning the issue of counterfeit tobacco (even more dangerous as it contains all sorts of chemicals banned in Europe).

The end result has been no European Government receiving taxes from tobacco bought for personal use (our definition of giving it to a family member or a friend) as we have been told that nearly 100% of the stuff now sold illegally on our streets is counterfeit. Strangely the Tobacco companies are doing nothing about this, even co-operating with Customs to restrict the supply of tobacco to Belgium shops.

April 9th 2011 – Portsmouth UKBA / HMRC. We all know that HMRC and the new UKBA concentrate their efforts on Dover. I saw no-one in Portsmouth when I returned today, which suggests their "mission" to protect the country is all about Revenue protection, rather than catching criminals and finding drugs and counterfeit goods. Are we the only country in Europe to still see a border as a place to control citizens living within them, rather than the point at which we control illegal immigration and look for drugs and explosives?

The fight goes on.

April 27th 2011 – Are the Government nuts? Bad news it seems. We had high hopes of the Coalition overturning the non sense of penalising shoppers more severely than muggers, thieves, police bashers etc. Now it seems they have bought into the rubbish sprouted by Customs lock, stock and barrel. Everyone with a tiny bit of commonsense knows the reason why people shop abroad for tobacco is to save money, yet the recent budget increased prices making this more attractive. After years of horribly evil policies against innocent shoppers, the end result is a glut of counterfeit tobacco on our streets. Not only have law abiding citizens been punished, but organized crime supported.

It's easy, having, as a foreigner come across from Europe, to imagine for a moment what it would like for travellers if the complete lack of border controls other E.U. countries enjoy, existed here. Would we be any less secure? Other E.U. countries, who trust their citizens so much they allow them to freely cross their own countries borders, but who control illegal immigration and customs issues (counterfeit goods etc.) internally, have a much better success rate than we do, and don't criminalise their own citizens in the process.

Just think of a country WITHOUT border controls for its citizens. No queues for travellers, no possibility of delays, no criminalising of law abiding citizens, staff made to look for counterfeit goods and illegal immigrants instead. How much better off we all would be.

Warning! Any British citizen with property, a business, family or friends abroad, necessitating frequent crossing of their countries border, should expect questioning and possible long searches.

If you have your shopping and / or car confiscated, expect higher court costs than muggers, thieves, people who commit violent assault against Policemen, or other criminals acts. There is no need to be nervous if carrying explosives or drugs, the UKBA exists to find and seize excisable goods such as tobacco and alcohol.

Amazing – this drug smuggler spent five years travelling around freely and crossing this countries borders to visit Amsterdam AFTER he was caught with a large quantity of heroin in his suitcase (chance find no doubt). Obviously they did not seize his car.

Advice for U.K. citizens crossing their own countries borders – Do not appear to travel in a group, book and pay for tickets individually, travel on to Dover individually, leave Calais in a group, travel back to Calais and leave Dover individually (evidence suggest we are being watched!). Travel more often (and bring back less), rather than infrequently (buying larger amounts). Remember that once stopped, especially if a seizure is made, your travel will be monitored.

Be prepared for intimidating questioning and the 'bastardisation" of the English language. If you should question a U.K. Border Agency Official they will answer in a manner which will leave you floundering. If for example, you complain about being stopped frequently by "you" to someone wearing the uniform of the UKBA (meaning the U.K. Border Agency – in my case over half the time) the individual officer on that day will say something like "I personally did not stop you". They will also say that an officer standing in front of your car with his/her hand out is not a "stop". A "stop" apparently is only when they take you into the sheds. They will say they cannot give you their numbers (how after all do you complain if you can't identify the individual you wish to complain about?). Finally remember that the normal definition of a smuggler (someone who profits from an illegal act), is not the same as that understood by UKBA. Their definition of a smuggler is someone who has deprived the U.K. Treasury of tax. This included innocent shoppers.

Amazing! But it's true, drug smugglers less important than shoppers buying tobacco and alcohol.

April 2011 – We now know officially that Customs have imposed limits on the amounts of British tobacco that can be exported to E.U. countries. "The quota being supplied now is equal to what was sold to Belgium in the period September 2009 and August 2010. The difference is that the quota is divided into equal monthly amounts. There is no distinction into seasonal rushes or quiet periods. According to Imperial, this quota remains for now under Custom's supervision and there is no room for growth." Smaller shops are complaining the bigger suppliers are not supplying them fairly, favouring the bigger shops. We are also getting complaints from shoppers that they are only being sold the popular brands if they buy other brands as well. This creates enormous difficulties for shoppers when dealing the HMRC / UKBA oppressors at Dover and Hull. We have finally aroused the interest of the Commission and will be pursuing this case vigorously.

More nonsense from HMRC – "I finally got through to the HM Revenue and Customs help line, only to be told there is no hard and fast rule as to the allowance or frequency that you can bring the allowance in to the county – it depends on the Officer who stops you at the time. So basically it depends on the mood of the customs officer at the time. Tell me how regular travellers can abide by the regulations when there aren't any, except on the whim of a customs officer?"

"UKBA are a bunch of useless, unnecessary abusive thugs". Illuminating stuff about UKBA. Yachting and Boating World Forum.

"British citizen? – then sleep rough". More examples of UKBA thuggery (again). Trucknet U.K.

"If the U.K. Border Agency are going to adopt a heavy handed attitude due their enormous powers and adopt a bully boy attitude they are going to lose all support from a section that could well provide them with valuable information. Leisure sailors are unlikely to report suspicious activity if they have recently been harassed by that same agency".

Regular users of this web site will be aware of our contempt for HMRC and their determination to criminalise shoppers and those who dare to cross their own countries borders (What do other countries do?). With counterfeit goods including tobacco flooding our streets, it's clear their strategy of criminalising United Kingdom citizens has backfired. The bad news is we now have another Agency with "special powers" to control us and our movements even more.

Seems that being British today arouses suspicions that will see you stopped BEFORE you leave these shores, and treated like a returning criminal on your return. Although titled "Border agency" we suggest this has more to do with "East Germany" than European Union".

Here at, we celebrate the rights we enjoy as foreigners travelling around Europe without being stopped, questioned or detained, and cannot express our dismay enough at the controls we face just because we live here.

It is also very clear, not just to us from our own personal experiences, but also from the many e-mails we receive, that the movements of British citizens in Europe are being monitored by the British Government. What relevance where you went shopping is to the security of the United Kingdom is, we are not sure, but its clear from abrupt questioning at our ports, that failure to mention where you have been is cause for assuming you are up to no good (in my personal case, buying chocolates but not tobacco in Belgium).

If other E.U. member states (all of whom have open borders and no Channel to protect them) can manage without these controls, then why can't we?

An obvious fact. Seems the Border Agency have lost track of 40,000 immigrants refused permission to stay in the United Kingdom. Perhaps someone should tell the Border Agency that one of the places illegals don't go to, is a port where Border Agency Officials have a heavy presence. British citizens do pass through though, so why are we being monitored?

December 2009 – What they are NOT looking for. Imagine if these boxes were marked "tobacco"? Amazing!

September 2009 – Total control? Seems New Labour have it mind to monitor us WITHIN our borders as well, not just when we cross them.

July 2009 – New Border Agency comes into effect – what its about (notes that about £174 million lost due to tobacco smuggling. The actual figure nationally is in the billions, yet they concentrate their efforts at our ports targeting United Kingdom citizens.

April 2009 – HMRC / U.K. Border Agency again. Lots of people are having a terrible time trying to get back home during the current air crisis. Vast expense, and even difficulty finding a hotel or place to stay are amongst the problems being dealt with. This clip from the BBC emphasises the absolute stupidity of the current British way of doing things. These poor people arrive to a place called "home" and find themselves treated to an amazing array of bureaucracy. Perhaps it would have been better had they rioted. If Britain had signed up to the Schengen Agreement, there would be no border controls and these British citizens and tax payers would have got home at last (and illegal immigration, smuggling and fraud would be dealt with differently, as other E.U. member states so much more successfully manage to do). How angry they must feel as foreigners having crossed numerous borders in Europe without issue, only to be treated like this on their return home. If other countries can trust us to cross their borders without being stopped, questioned and made subject to draconian penalties because we have shopped where its cheaper, why can't our own Government behave in the same way? Think how much money the taxpayer would save if the U.K. Border Agency were abolished.

What does the United Kingdom Border agency do? Well, it's not protecting our borders for starters.

Remember – as European shoppers you are GUILTY until you prove you are innocent (effectively impossible to do!).

Illegal immigrant selling counterfeit tobacco on our streets? Don't worry, you will not be detained, questioned, have your car confiscated, fined or deported. Lucky you!

A shameful experience for a coach passenger – What has happened to our country?

Says it all – Quote from a Lords debate by Baroness Thornton (a Junior Minister). "As noble Lords will be aware, the illicit share of the tobacco market is estimated to be 13 per cent, but more than half of hand-rolled tobacco is estimated to be illicit. That is why reducing the availability of these products is a priority for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the United Kingdom Border Agency and, at the retail level, local authority trading standards. We are not, and must not be, complacent."

Also "Tackling illicit tobacco remains a priority for the Government. In November 2008, we published Tackling Tobacco Smuggling Together, an integrated strategy for HM Revenue and Customs and the new United Kingdom Border Agency."

A priority? What about drugs, counterfeit goods, paedophile literature, illegal immigrants?

Interesting to read – The government's "Tackling Tobacco smuggling together" strategy (PDF).

Even when New Labour do tackle illegal immigration they get it horribly wrong. We agree with this article.

What the Border Agency are about – Wikipedia guide.

HELP! – if you have any comments or tips that will help advance the cause of channel shopping, and the rights of British citizens to travel freely and without fear, please contact us

From a shopper – what you can expect at our ports.

"I went on my first ever daytrip to France yesterday with my one and only new passport. On the way out we were stopped. Both the coach and people searched by sniffer dog. We then got back on and got stopped again. Then me and five others were taken off and searched. On the way back we were pulled in again. I was questioned in a room on my own but released. Three others had goods taken, and they were not over the guidelines. Makes me afraid to go anywhere again." This is New Labour Britain.

The information contained within this web site is intended to act as a general guide only, and does not form any offer or legal contract, whether actual or implied.

Customs and VAT matters are complex, and you should seek practical advice and assistance from a professional source rather than rely on the contents of this web site.

In just about every European Member State, this is all you now see when crossing a border, sometimes you must slow down as pictured here on the French / Belgium border. It's only when you return to the United Kingdom you find there is still a need for the State to know everything about you and your movements.

border with belgium

U.K. Border agency – The United Kingdom Border Agency

Starting in 2008, frontline staff will be conferred with both immigration and customs powers and staff in England and Wales will be equipped with police-like powers as set out in the United Kingdom Borders Act 2007. The new United Kingdom Border agency brings together powers from different Government Agencies to "protect our borders".

Unfortunately although its not mentioned much in the bumph put out, this includes protecting the public purse. i.e. stopping people shopping where it is cheapest to you and I. The term "Border Agency" implies they will be protecting our borders, but its clear protecting the Treasury is of greatest importance, as anyone now being stopped when leaving the country and well as on their return well knows. It's you within our borders stupid, not those outside they are concerned about!

It's usually necessary to read between the lines and New Labour speak when trying to understand the "mission" of Government Agencies, whose powers have increased dramatically under New Labour. The main reason for our concern and interest, is that innocent people are being prosecuted unfairly. Prosecutions under the Criminal head are harder to get than those under the civil head so important crimes such as smuggling or selling tobacco to children are no longer criminal. Appeals are effectively an administrative procedure finishing off the punishment, rather than an opportunity to put your case fairly, be found guilty and THEN punished, or to prove your innocence (the reason people actually appeal). So, what is the "mission statement" of the United Kingdom Border Agency?

"The United Kingdom Border Agency is responsible for securing the United Kingdom borders and controlling migration in the United Kingdom (this implies against those coming in, but given the time spent on those of us within them, going OUT, we feel this should be clarified).

We manage border control for the United Kingdom, enforcing immigration and customs (Mmm, that's drugs and child pornography right?) regulations. We also consider applications for permission to enter or stay in the United Kingdom, citizenship and asylum." (Last on the list)

Looking at the website for further clues I clicked on "Strengthening our borders". The points made include:

  • Exclusion from the United Kingdom of individuals for engaging in unacceptable behaviour
  • A strong new force at the border (What for, if they have time to monitor those within going out?)
  • Borders, immigration and identity action plan (Identity? We are being watched)
  • Police and United Kingdom Border Agency engagement to strengthen the United Kingdom Border (Strengthen from what? We believe it another measure to control those within)
  • Securing the United Kingdom border (from its own citizens?)

Quote from a message on the forum – it's not just me!

goonies dover

Annual reports from the UKBA

2009 – 2010 / 2010 – 2011.

HMRC Reports.

Border protection – what do other countries do?

Most European countries have open borders (no channel!) and many have land borders (easy to cross) with Russia or Turkey, countries not in the E.U.

Yet many are part of the Schengen Agreement which allows their own and other E.U. citizens to cross frontiers without being subject to border controls, customs checks. The United Kingdom, despite a large area of sea separating us from our nearest neighbour, has the sort of Border controls which make us have more in common with East Germany than the E.U., and still has a huge problem with illegal immigrants. We are of the view it's because of the way we run things here, inside our borders. The ridiculous situation we find ourselves in, of having a large illegal immigrant problem, coupled with strict border controls aimed at those of us who pay taxes and have British passports is intolerable.

Imagine if we as a country were mature enough to trust our own citizens and join Schengen, and did away with the border controls we have, seemingly aimed at us?

The authorities would be forced to do as the French and other E.U. countries do, not allowing people without permission to work here or get housing or social security. If they can do it, why can't we?

I liked this comment on a forum I visited, posted by a French citizen.

"The French authorities are playing a blinder here. They arrest so many immigrant smugglers around Calais that courts as far away as Paris are dealing with the overload. Ask yourselves this: if United Kingdom immigration control, Home Office Minister Phil Woolas's "Ring of Steel," is so effective, why do intending illegal immigrants still flood into the Pas de Calais? The United Kingdom allowed this problem to take root and grow. Do not blame the French for it."

The Schengen Agreement is an important part of the E.U.'s fight against crime. The opt-out has been criticised in the United Kingdom for hampering the United Kingdom's capabilities in stopping transnational crime through the inability to access the Schengen Information System.

What is the Schengen Agreement? (Wikipedia guide)

eBorders, more controls on United Kingdom citizens

The Government's latest way of monitoring us (who needs ID's?) is a scheme called e-borders. Soon, even if we cross the border on a daytrip we will need to answer (every time) 53 questions. Whilst other countries have ID schemes with laws to protect citizens from their misuse or abuse, here we have no ID's cards but legislation which snoops, intrudes and abuses our rights even more. Alarmingly the United Kingdom Border Agency web site says ". . . that any passengers who do not hand over this information are "unlikely to be allowed to travel"." The Government Minister responsible, Phil Wollas, also says "Our hi-tech electronic borders system will allow us to count all passengers in and out of the United Kingdom and %5Bit%5D targets those who aren't willing to play by our rules," he said."

"The aim of the e-Borders programme is to transform our border control to ensure greater security, effectiveness, and efficiency. To do so, we will make full use of the latest electronic technology to provide a way of collecting and analysing information on everyone who travels to or from the United Kingdom. Other technologies, particularly biometrics, will ensure we identify people securely and effectively.

The United Kingdom Border Agency is responsible for delivering the e-Borders programme, and we are doing so with the support of the police and HM Revenue and Customs. We are working closely with the travel industries, whose support is crucial to the programme's success. Information will be gathered on all travellers, passengers and crew entering or leaving the country by air, sea or rail. It will allow us to identify passengers who are a potential risk and alert the relevant authorities."

This is the bit which means they will use out travel frequency to pass information on to HMRC. "It will allow us to identify passengers who are a potential risk and alert the relevant authorities". Question – given the enormous problems with illegal immigrants, why are they spending time on those of us within our borders?

The Daily Mail, news item about eBorders.

We agree with a spokesperson from the No2ID campaign who said "When your travel plans, who you are travelling with, where you are going to and when are being recorded you have to ask yourself just how free is this country?".

At least the opposition parties appear to be aware of the dangers involved.

"Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: "The government seems to be building databases to track more and more of our lives. "The justification is always about security or personal protection. But the truth is that we have a government that just can't be trusted over these highly sensitive issues. We must not allow ourselves to become a Big Brother society.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "This is another example of an intrusive database without any public debate about safeguards on its use. We are sleepwalking into a surveillance state and should remember that George Orwell's 1984 was a warning, not a blueprint."

Other campaigns. Melon Farmers.

Other concerns, British citizens and visitors unable to take photographs in public places.

– The mentality of United Kingdom Customs and how it differs from commonsense and taxpayers interpretations. When you watch this think of all the drug smugglers walking by.

Groups and individuals fighting for your freedom to travel freely – Action for Casualties of Customs European Shoppers' Seizures

Customs tobacco – We really like what this group is doing challenging Customs and holding them to account. "A blog on issues and experiences of U.K. Customs and Smoking Ban. Guest posts welcome. Note:- We use the term U.K. Customs for simplicity of understanding, their official title is HMRC and are under U.K. Border Agency now.". Please remember though, that any tobacco brought back from a trip, must be solely for your own personal use (small amounts may be gifted).

HMRC are SHITE – HMRC Is Shite. This blog is "dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of the HMRC, who have to endure the monumental shambles that is Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)." Do a search for articles under "tobacco" – scary stuff.

manifesto club – The Manifesto Club. A source of refreshing thinking with a campaign against our Government's attempts to stifle the Arts by denying poets and writers from abroad, visas to come here.

Your customs allowances.

You do not have to pay any tax or duty in the United Kingdom on goods you have bought tax paid in other E.U. countries which are for your own use, but please remember the following.

* ‘Own use’ includes goods for your own consumption and gifts. But you cannot bring back goods for payment, even payment in kind, or for re-sale. These would then be held for a commercial purpose. You may be breaking the law if you sell goods that you have bought. If you are caught selling the goods, they will be taken off you and for serious offences you could get up to seven years in prison.

* You must bring the goods into the United Kingdom yourself: you cannot ask or pay someone else to bring them in for you.

* If you bring back large quantities of alcohol or tobacco, a Customs Officer may ask about the purposes for which you hold the goods. The Officer will take into account all the factors of the situation and your explanation. If you are unable or refuse to provide a satisfactory explanation the officer may well conclude that those goods are for a commercial purpose and not for your own use. If we are satisfied that the goods are held for a commercial purpose and so not for your own use they will be liable to seizure. Any vehicle used to transport them will also be liable to seizure and may not be returned.

Your experiences – how the British Government is scaring it's own citizens from travelling again.

Your rights as British citizens – The steady flow of e-mails from outraged British citizens continues. It seems that attitude is definitely a reason to seize with this lot, the old cherished British values of evidence needed to establish guilt, and innocent until proven guilty, are well out of the way these days. Most NORMAL people will of course react negatively to illogical and offensive questions about their personal lives after a holiday or daytrip, but all this does is give these bullies scope for seizing. Anti Terrorist legislation, designed apparently to make you and I safer, is now being used to stifle dissent and the opportunity to shop where it is cheapest. No wonder we are in such a mess. Remember no evidence needed. It's clear HMRC also spend time noting number plates in Adinkerke (Belgium). Now that they are all part of the new UK Border Agency setup, why aren't they investigating the illegal immigrants clearly evident in Calais? Seems you need to be British and a tax payer to get their attention. Most importantly British citizens are not just scared to travel on shopping trips, but are avoiding doing so. Where are you Europe?

It can only happen in the United Kingdom – some of the comments made to us recently by United Kingdom citizens who have crossed our borders (sic);




"I find the intrusive questioning and interrogation offensive at the UK border Dover (I am sure this applies to other ports). When I travel through Europe and other countries within the EU – Except Uk, I find my transit easy, non intrusive and rarely stopped and almost never stopped between Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, Austria and other EU countries. The UK border agency who show an arrogance that only the Germans did during the first and second world wars, regarding intrusive questioning and search. Almost each time I leave the UK I am asked to drive into an area of the UKA search sheds and asked questions and have my car checked for Explosive or some other such device or drug. I find this extremely upsetting. Further upon entry to the UK I have been once again, almost always stopped and asked to drive to a shed for inspection or Questioning. I do not believe that i have to answer many of these intrusive, rude and unnecessary questions merely to enter my own country."

"On my return from a recent overnight trip, the UKBA agent at Coquelles checked the passports, asked where we had been/what we had done, asked whether we were carrying tobacco (we weren't) and that was that! No further action taken, and straight through to the terminal building. Perhaps they have got wind (after 4 years) that my father is no longer around and that my mother no longer lives independently and are therefore less suspicious of me? I have to say there were no problems last trip either, but on the two previous ones I was taken into the shed, with the second time being the more intrusive.

"The name UKBA, implies that its role is to protect our borders. Having been stopped five out of six times passing through Dover recently I am sure this is not the case. Their real role is clearly to monitor those of us who live within this countries borders. Of course, although a UKBA official standing in front of your car with his or her hand up represents a stop to you and I, according to their bastardised version of the English language, a stop is only when they take you into the sheds and have the dogs out. However if you don't stop, up come the cats claws and you get prosecuted for not stopping. No wonder we have such a large problem with drugs and illegal immigrants, their whole policy is based on catching people by accident."

"Well, well, well. Stopped again at Dover by the UKBA thugs energetically protecting revenue streams for the Treasury, making this the seventh time in nine journeys! And people think the border in UKBA stands for the point at which the United Kingdom is protected. Wake up folks, it's the point at which British taxpayers and law abiding citizens are controlled. Interestingly, when I said "congratulations, that's the seventh out of nine times I have been stopped, why?", I was ordered into the sheds in a manner normal people would regard as intimidating. Apparently they think it's reasonable to be stopped and asked a few questions, even though as a foreigner you have driven across many other European countries borders without being stopped. When I said "but seven out of nine times, surely this is harassment?" they stayed silent. I am now convinced, as the evidence is overwhelming, that the UKBA is NOT about protecting our countries borders but simply an excuse to scare people into shopping where it is more expensive (at home). Moreover, your frequency of travel is clearly enough to assume you are of criminal intent, as I have no criminal record whatsoever, and am most unlikely to break the law in any way." (July 2011)

"I travel to France several times a year. I would say 80% of the time I am pulled over by customs and searched. Simply because I don't have receipts for every single purchase, my entry into the U.K. is usually delayed by at least an hour. My car has been stripped down and rebuilt at least 6 times. Officers are rude and ignorant. I am a 39 year old white male, lived in England all my life travelling with my boyfriend. I hardly look like a terrorist. I dread going abroad because I know it's going to be a humiliating living hell trying to get back into my home country." (from

"It is within your rights to refuse to answer most of the questions put to you at UKBA. You are obliged to give your name, address and date of birth. You are not requited by law to provide any other information. I suggest that EVERYONE begins to refuse to buy into the questioning of the UKBA. If everyone refuses to answer the intrusive questions, maybe they will review the policy toward UK citizens. After leaving the UK, most European travel becomes easy and hassle free."

"why are the customs people so ignorant and unconcerned about how anyone feels? What right is there in the fact that they can take everything that you purchased in good faith. If you were to be silly enough to go over the limit why not just take the excess. Why do they have the right to take everything from you? Two pensioners from Britain brought an extra packet of tobacco and were made to feel like they had committed a war crime. If I take anything from someone else then it is theft surely they are committing theft as well? I will never go to France again and the tobacco runs will decrease as people become more scared."

"Went to France and Belgium and bought what we thought a reasonable amount of Cigars and tobacco.600 small cigars and 2 kilos of tobacco. The Customs Officer made us put our car in a bay and cross examined us and was very intimidating. He took our passports and our tobacco receipt to be examined. Then after searching our car (all we had besides was some shopping and some wine) We received no apology. We were told we could go."

"I should have done this quite a few years ago, but finally I'd like to offer you a sincere vote of thanks from my girlfriend and I for the incredibly detailed and invaluable information your site has provided over the years. My first port of call before a trip is always to this site, which has saved us a good few quid, and no doubt a good deal of grief. It's good to see someone get the bit between their teeth and take on the feckless muppets at HMRC and their less than illustrious predecessors. It disgusts me that Britain, alone in Europe, takes the view that free trade is only for businesses and the wealthy. These days we take the easy route and have a nice day out in Brussels via the Eurostar (we don't drive), buying the tobacco at the standard (still vastly cheaper than the U.K.!!) prices in Relay at the station. Even after ticket, a couple of decent meals and a few beers, we're hundreds better off. I'm proud to say that I haven't bought a single packet of fags or gram of tobacco in the U.K. since 1990 – that it has been worth it to persevere for 21 years speaks volumes about the way U.K. consumers are treated as a rather stupid cash cow."

Why should British citizens give up hope?

"hi, went Adinkerke on wednesday with my dad, stopped on way back. 2 hour interrorgation, took all my stuff and my dads. they told me i did not have enough income coming in to save up and buy tobacco. i bought 60 gv and 6 sleeves lb – under their guidelines, have not been abroad for several years. they reduced me to tears with their intimidating questioning. took my dads stuff as well, told him they believed that he smoked lb but did not smoke gv tobacco. he bought 70 gv (3.5 kgs), and 6 super kings as present for my sisters birthday, again under the guidelines. when he went to alicante in december he was stopped at bristol airport, they said amount he purchased was ok – 80 gv (4 kgs) and 6 lb as long as he did not come back for 2 months. mum and dad use about a pouch and a half a day so, 70 / 80 pouches lasts 8 weeks. 16 months ago he was stopped and they took his tobacco and his car he had my foster sister and her husband with him they took there stuff as well dumped them at dover after 4 hours interrorgation. said they believed that all of the tobacco was for my dad. no proof just smirks and smugness and if you dont like it go to court. each time they make up there minds differently using different reasons for the seizure. i am disgusted with losing my goods to them i saved hard to buy them now i have lost 500 pounds. i am a young mum with 2 children, i get over 1200 pounds a month tax free. i claim dla and income support. they said it was impossible for me to save. you have no representation there, they make a decision and thats it total power from jumped up yellow coated hitlers.i am going to appeal but whats the use they have an unlimited amount of government cash to win the case in court etc.they know this there smug attitude is sickening it is my right to purchase goods wherever i choose but their arrogance and high handedness will stop me ever going again.!"

What happens when British citizens are stupid enough to cross their own countries borders – "illegal immigrants carrying weapons and cemtex in holdalls on their backs are welcome to cross the border into the U.K. But you carry a little more tobacco that allowed and you become a criminal in the eyes of customs. They must wear ear-plugs cos they dont hear you. All they want is your goods and an explanation of what you have been doing for the past 6 months. Then they question you in a little room. What bloody right have they got to confiscate a car and why do they not just confiscate the tobacco which is over the limit.and let you take the legal amount. As a Brit I felt demoralised and extremely angry at the attitude of the officers. Why should i have to prove how much I smoked. I will never go back to Belgium again as i felt my liberty was at risk. All that money paid into the french revenue and no refund. Its disgusting. This was the 2nd time I have ever travelled!"

"For a number of years I have been going to Germany to buy motor caravans and nine times out of ten was given the third degree at dover yet I had done nothing wrong. Questions like "where have u come from?" A – "Germany". Q "how long are u staying?" A "I live here, cant u see the motor is on transit plates?" A pull in to that bay then an hours grilling and searching my camper, about thirty times in total".

"do you think i was targeted? I was asked all about past trips and future plans,they took passport away for ages approx 1 hour. will i get stopped every time i travel now and at airports in future?"

"The customs officer checked my car and found nothing she then went away to the office with all my vehicle documents and fishing permits and travel information and returned half hour latter with a written statement in a note book which we where told to sign, I did ask for a copy but was told, I do not have to give you a copy, She then informed me that if I travelled again in the next three months whether I had tobacco or not it would be deemed that I have imported the maximum allowance on my previous journeys and my vehicle WOULD be seized, it is a motorbility vehicle. She did not confiscate any thing off us and we were allowed on our way. SO BASICALY I AM NOW CONFINED TO THE U.K., Even though I hold a U.K. passport. Please tell me when England became a police state because I must have missed the announcement."

"On a recent trip to calais on the channel tunnel with my husband and my parents we were stopped at customs and asked questions about where we had been and what we had brought, after giving the ignorant customs officer all the answers we were then taken to seperate rooms for questioning after all this they then proceeded to seize 5kg of baccy from myself and 5 kg from my husband and 6kg each from my parents and also my car was seized and we were shipped back to england by minibus, our treatment was fairly bad as my dad is disabled and mum has arthritis and we had to carry all of our shopping back home by train how can they keep doing this? there are all these laws about human rights surely the same applies to us to be able to travel to france and back without the fear of having a car that you work hard to pay for confiscated because the ignorant customs officer says so."

my car was seized and we were shipped back to england by minibus, our treatment was fairly bad as my dad is disabled and mum has arthritis and we had to carry all of our shopping back home by train how can they keep doing this? there are all these laws about human rights surely the same applies to us to be able to travel to france and back without the fear of having a car that you work hard to pay for confiscated because the ignorant customs officer says so.

i took a barristor and what a job he did the customs officer is still trying to answer why did you tell mr xxx he can walk now and leave everything or have an interview? thankyou daytripper keep up the good work.

thought you would be interested by what happened to my partner and myself. We were pulled over this morning and had our car emptied and thoroughly searched because we were not carrying enough shopping! They considered that wanting to spend a day and a night in France, do a bit of shopping and have a nice meal was not a good enough explanation and that we must have something to hide. The fact that we have been going twice a year for a good 15 years made no difference at all. They made us sit in a garage with the door open so that everyone going throught to the train could see that our car was being taken apart and we were being searched and when they had finished said that we could go. They declined when asked to tell us why they had stopped us saying that it was not in the public interest. I have a feeling that I have a right to know why I have been stopped but stuck between French passport control and the train back to England I was in no position to argue. I would be very interested to know if anyone else has had a similar experience.

March 2010 – "Aggressive behaviour by 1 customs officer in particular from the minute he asked us to come with him, and within 30 seconds he was in my face not shouting but very loud and the tone was very intimidating (the others were very polite) was threatened with arrest 3 times, went back through travel history back to 2001 (scary eh?). We never got ruffled or impolite to the point we were thanked at the end for being very nice to them. They knew far too much about us for it to have been a random pull in. Only thing they got wrong was they said they believed we didn't smoke at which point we actually laughed, another thing which was quite disturbing, I was refused access to the toilet twice and it wasn't until I said I would be weeing on the floor they finally let me go to the toilet. I thought it was quite barbaric, I also thought that was against the law to be refused access to a toilet, as you are allowed a wee in gaol. No such thing as any privacy at gatwick either, we were interviewed in full public view with everybody walking past us from all the other flights."

"Only been over Belgium two times in one year, lost car for 10kilos of tobacco,that was 5kilos each. Don't have a leg to stand on when dealing with these people, they know it all and make it up as they go along."

i feel customs are a law unto themselves they make the rules if they dont like the look of you theyll have you,drug dealers walk by them and they pick on the innocent

it.a lot off people will be detered from buying anythin from abroad and the likes of p.o will lose buisness hense more job losses all because of customs,,,very sad people they need to get a life get the drug pushers and peodos and illegal imigrants,not us decent people

I used a firm of solicitors to start with to appeal to have everything returned. HMCR response was NO and if you wish to appeal you would have to go to court. The double edged sword to this was, if you didn't win you would be liable to up to £5000 in costs as well as your own barristers fees.

I have spoken to a neighbour who works at Gatwick for HMCR, he tells me that they have targets to reach at Dover and as usual the road user is the easy target. The day trippers are hammered yet drug smugglers and illegal immigrants seem to evade capture.


"I suggest you go to Calais, I saw it and heard it, bullying and provocative behaviour with my own eyes and ears from a very aggressive border official (at the Port of Calais the U.K. Border Agency mans the imigration – WITH ZEAL!!!!) why he picked on the man I dont know but lay into him he did, then when the guy responded in kind he was threatened with prision, I was ashamed to be British, sorry border people but this is NOT ON!! – official thuggery is here now, but I suspect there is nothing we can do about it."

"If I'd wanted to live in a Banana Republic I'd have gone to South America."

"i was stopped by customs at manchester airport, well within limits of giggs – not arrested .was asked to answer questions for about one hour (just a few questions). ALL GOODS SEIZED. ALL BECAUSE I TOOK MY OWN CASH WITH ME. WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH. COULD NOT USE MY MOBILE (BUT I WAS NOT ARRESTED) I THINK IT BE BETTER OFF LIVING IN CHINA."

"A friend went to Adinkirk by car 2 weeks ago and it seems they are now targeting coaches making everyone get off and carry their goods through customs. It appears it is the feeble attempt of a bankrupt government to dissuade people from travelling to Belgium and legally buying cheap tobacco for themselves."

From a former Customs officer. "We were trained to be tactful, pleasant and polite, but I think, like most other things, that sort of treatment has gone by the board to some extent and I do blame the Government regulations which now make it almost impossible for any decent Customs officer to do his or her job in the way they would wish."

Whilst I believe the zero tolerance that HMRC impose was the correct policy, HMRC should seek away of dealing quicker with the minor offences, perhaps allowing prior to seizure the traveller paying the excise duty evaded, or a quick appeal system following seizure.

"Even us abstainers (alcohol and tobacco) get pulled at ports and asked to explain. 1.our many trips to scotland 2.why exactly you visited. 3.markings on your atlas 4.prescription drugs 5.why you have so much kit in your car 6.why you have so many documents in a foreign language that obviously isn't arabic or english 7.why you have a largish amount of foreign currency 8.explain the pics on our cameras (medieval churches,locos) and anything else they think they can pin on you. I have been pulled and searched every trip this year. Naturally every time i've put in a written complaint over customs dodgy practices and their seemingly unaccountable ivory tower officials. Best of luck with the campaign "

"On way back to Blighty, I was asked by an HMRC guy at check in how long I had owned my car, dealership I got it from, what i had paid for it, was it registered in my name, etc. Who knows what that was about?".

"I have had my vehicle seized at Dover. We were left without money or transport at the port of Dover at Midnight on Saturday, myself, my wife, my son and our two dogs. I travel to France about 8 times a year for a week at a time. Could do with some advice help contact solicitor etc. I am still quite distraught. We were intimidated."

"We had 2 boxes of tabaco each, containing 120 pouches in each box. We also had 11 3L boxes of wine. They went right over my car and after 4 hours they took the lot off me and dropped us off in folkstone train station. The annoying thing about all this is that at folkstone i asked a eurotunnel worker about what quantaties we were permitted to bring back, and she said. As long as is for your own consumption you can bring as much as you like. There are double standards here,and we are taking the blame for the goverments lack of cosideration to educate staff who should know they are destroying peoples lifes by taking their vehicles, as i now can not work,and my employees will suffer for this in a few weeks time, as i can not now price jobs in quarries without a vehicle."


"no-one i have talked to so far has been able to offer me anything in the way of advice, and added to that every solicitor in my local area have steered clear of deeling with me. the citizens advice bureau were of no help as well, although after reading through my letters sent and received they adjudged me to have been unfairly treated."

"I am a courier for a travel company. Returning from Santander on 15 sept 2009 with 42 clients we were all interviewed with 20 people having their tobacco products seized, all within suggested levels. one gentleman only having 500grms of rolling tobacco, not been abroad for 1year. Thank you."


"I should have been interviewed with my wife instead of being interviewed separately – after reading your feedback I am appalled."

"We were held for more than two hours as they opened all tobacco packs, the wine boxes and ripped the linings from our holdalls. We were questioned separately."

From another web forum. "The situation in the United Kingdom seems to be getting worse and worse. Every time we go back now we are quizzed about the purpose for our visit, hardly something we need tell the customs officials when returning to the country of our birth and nationality. With this kind of bureaucracy, it's easy to forget that these people are employed BY US, at our expense, and for our benefit. We are their masters, not their servants. I hope everyone will stand up against this kind of bureaucratic bullying by referring every incident to their MP and to various civil liberties groups."

"After a wonderful day out, we drove back to the port. United Kingdom Border Agency checked our passports and asked why we had been to Calais. Naturally we stated 'shopping'. We were allowed to carry on. Waiting for the ferry, Immigration visited every vehicle checking its contents. This I accept if people are trying to smuggle illegal immigrants in to the country. As you can imagine, my mind was racing thinking that due to what i had encountered throughout the journey, that i was going to be stopped by HMRC when leaving Dover port. However, i felt intimidated by the experience. i know i only had some wine and a few pouches of baccie, but it made me feel like i was smuggling cheap goods in to my own country."

"the brits were herded into a channel into customs. foreign nationals were allowed past unhindered. the bags of the brits were searched at long tables. people had the humiliation of turning out their baggage and made to undergo the worst type of questioning. what is your income? what are your outgoing expenses? who are the goods for? do you have any savings? are you on benefits? how often do you travel? how come you can afford to travel! i cant see any nicotine on your fingers! how much would you purchase the goods for in the U.K.? how much do you smoke in a day? in a week? how long do you estimate they will last?"

"on the way back i was stopped by some really arragant customs guy that said he didn't believe i smoked and that if he wanted to he could sieze my car. I explained to him i do smoke and so do my passengers and that we only had our legal amount of tabbaco, no more and no less, also i only had about £50 worth of wine in the car, he also questioned me on why i needed this? i again explained that all the passengers in my car were over 16 and all smoked and liked the occasional drink, but all he did was try to intimidate me by putting hi face about an inch away from mine and say, all he has to do is have a doubt they are for me and that im going to sell them and he could take my car if he wants, his problem was the fact that my passengers were my grown up the end after about 1/2 hr of threats and a chat w!ith 3 of his collegues he said he had decided to give me a friendly warning? Could you tell me if he can do this, also does this mean that i cant go back in a couple of months (im going to Holland for a long weekend) and on the way back buy my legal limit again?Also i was curious about what he said, he said the tobbaco has to be for my consumption only, does this mean if I buy some and give it to my mother in law as a gift im breaking the law?Im really worried now about going back in a few months to stock up, do you think i should buy an old banger just in case they take my car?we take 1 large holiday and 1 small holiday per year, these are normally taken in Italy and Holland and we always drive to our destinatons in our car, my car cost me £21000, so would you suggest i dont buy tobbaco whilst in this car as i dont want to lose it for doing nothing wrong.Now i understand why people buy bootlegged tobacco from the local chinese guy, at least you cant lose your car!"

Wasting taxpayers money – "Customs bankrupted me earlier this year because I offered them £100 per month towards their £5000 court fees and they said they would only accept the full amount. I have now been able to write off £30,000 worth of debt and Customs haven't received a penny. I intend to challenge every seizure in court. Unfortunately, it is the taxpayer who is paying for the stupidity of Customs. They claim they are saving the taxpayer thousands, not in my case. It's costing more to take me to court than they lose in excise duty. one case cost in excess of £20,000. Customs are too stupid to realise that in order to prove commerciality, they would have to let me through with something. I am determined to exercise my legal right to shop freely in any member state of the European Union. It took one woman to refuse to give a white man a seat on a bus in South Africa to put an end to apartheid. Maybe just one woman standing up to the British government will make a difference. I hope so."

"We enjoy combining a sightseeing trip with a shopping trip – there are household products we tend not to buy in England because we save 50% or more in France, as well as stocking up on wine – but being questioned by Customs, even though I am clearly doing nothing wrong, does make it somewhat less pleasant."

i informed them that i came each year at the same time when the ferry company did discounted fares. i was asked if I had been stopped on any other occasions, itold them yes. i refused to answer questions or sign anything because they have interrogated me beforehand and should have it on file. the humiliation was terrible. customs held me for two hours +. i was in agony with my back and legs throbbing, i kept pacing in small circles to ease the pain.

at one time i was left unattended for 33 minutes stood at the tables. everyone had gone ages before. my friend had to wait outside for two hours waiting for me. eventually the superior came and told me that my 5kgs of baccy was seized. this time they said i didnt smoke!!!!! it beggars belief. i'm proud to be british!!! god knows what the customs will do if they ever get weapons."

From a message board posting – "Driving through Dover port in a car with Czechoslovakian plates, containing false compartments concealing two Afghanistan stowaways, a quantity of semtex, cocaine and no excise goods? Can't see what you are worried about."

"lost my car and tobacco. we had 100 packs each, only travelled twice abroad in five years. to be treated like you're a criminal and told to walk and leave everything, who are these people? I WILL TELL YOU – ENGLISH HITLERS. what an attitude. had the interview and guess what, long walk back to xxx, i am going to fight them. i am not a criminal – i am a smoker. any advice please"

"the United Kingdom Border Agency at Calais when the lady was checking the passports and asked me what relationship did i have with the other car occupants. I advised it was my mother sitting next to me, and in the back was my sister-in-law and her daughter. The officer looked at me strangely and asked if I had written permission from the parents of the 2 females in the back. This threw me a little bit and so i had to explain to her in simple terms that the 2 females were old enough as the one was my sister-in-law and the other did not need parental consent as her mother was sitting next to her!!! The penny dropped with the officer and so was allowed to carry on."

"As usual, the drive through Dover security was nerve-racking but did not get stopped. My only thoughts now is that because i have a chipped passport, the system knows i have been to the continent twice in the past few weeks and will probably stop and search on the next trip. I will probably run out of my tobacco in 2 months and want to travel again but not go through all the hassle of United Kingdom Border Agency and HMRC."

"Has my passport been marked?"

"getting stopped and searched and treated like a criminal every time i come from holiday or on a business trip is no good either."

"For last month me and few of my friends have been stopped by customs every time we travel from anywhere – as soon they put passport on scanner – something comes up – and we are directed straight to customs. Turns out it's new tactics used by customs to stop and search people who previously been stopped and items seized from them. Nice. I'v been stoppen once in early march traveling from FR with some tabacco and few bottles of expensive vine. And now i am stopped at every airport in U.K. beause of this! Same for my mates."

"i had declared my cigarettes to customs upon arrival, but because they were intended for sale – they confiscated them from me at the end (i bought 25 cartons of marlboro black). So this was my "crime" and now i am hardcore criminal as you can see. Same story with my colleagues – one of them declared ciggies like me and had them taken, other 2 had seizures (they only had 7 cartons!!!)"

"I was stopped and spent 2 hours in a room intergated and had my goods seized with no explaination – why?"

"last week i flew back from spain with under the recommended allowance. Was made to wait for ages, humiliated and belittled. Had my tobacco taken off me with no seizure notice or reciept. I am a frequent traveller but have had my stuff taken off me every time for the last 6 trips. I frequently travel because I have family and friends in both spain and bulgaria, I am self employed and well payed so I take advantage of cheap flights and free acommodation to see my family. I feel totally victimised and harrased every time I travel now. I only bring tobacco back when I have or are about to run out and then get it taken off me."

"my mother and I went on a bus trip to Adinkerke. The bus was stopped by customs and we had to carry our bags through. My mother was stopped with 60 pouches of tobacco and was subjected to a 'hairdryer' treatment of why the customs officer could not believe that an 82 year old smoked roll ups at home and gave away some pouches as bithday christmas and other occasions to family and friends who smoke. Eventually the customs officer sneered at her and told her to take her bags and she didnt want to see her again. Two other elderly ladies were similarly treated."

"The arrogance and incompetence of customs beggars belief."

"HMRC usings lots of intimidation, pointing out to appellants that they may face HMRCs costs of £1,500."

"She stated that one is only entitled to the guideline ONCE a year. She also checked my passport and asked why I go so often to Spain. I advised her that Ryanair offer many cheap flights and I like Spain. She told me they would be watching me."

"Just be grateful you are not in Brighton this week – it's like being in Fort Knox with the Labour Party conference – even turnstiles along the seafront! Whatever next – I prefer the cows on Normandy!"

"we were stopped on entry back to U.K. from calais to dover. They pulled our daughters car to pieces searching for god knows what, they asked us what we had been over for and we told the truth and said tobacco, but they still continued to strip the car even taking out light fittings etc, in the process they broke the back seat where her 11 month old daughter has her child seat. we have been over to belgium 6 times in the last 3 yrs not to much i dont think. we were kept seperate for 3 hours and left alone for long periods of time, i didnt know where my husband was and he didnt know where i was, they seized all the tobacco and seized her car but then released her car as she had a baby, i think we were treated unfairly as we dont make a big habit of going over there on a regular basis."

" i have been stopped four times by excise in dover, i am sick of it and dont want to travel by boat again,i am an invalid and drive an oldish car which i think is the reason for being stopped, it spoils all my day trips."

"We enjoy combining a sightseeing trip with a shopping trip – there are household products we tend not to buy in England because we save 50% or more in France, as well as stocking up on wine – but being questioned by Customs, even though I am clearly doing nothing wrong, does make it somewhat less pleasant."

"We have appealed against this and have been advised that the case will go to court, but we are having problems getting a solicitor to take the case on. We have been advised that the court fees will be approximately £3,000. I am registered disabled and my husband is my carer, but so far we have not been able to get a solicitor who will agree to legal aid. This seems like ano win situation. What happened to Innocent until proven Guilty?"

" the person who seized mine did not need to prove anything. When I said the cigarettes were for our own use. She simply said "I don't believe you" and gone were mine and my husband's cigarettes for the next six months, with a warning that we would be watched from now on!"

What happens when you have been stopped before. "I just brought 3200 back, what a suprise they took those as well. I appealed against this and won, got a cheque for the price of the cigs but not for cost of flight and hotel since then i have not been able to go through an airport with out being stopped."

"the present seizure rate for illegal drugs is a joke and rather than devoting so much energy stopping the small fish they want to be going after the big ones. after all the entire population knows how 98% of herion gets through. surely customs do too?"

"i was stoped by customs and treated like a criminal . i had the guideline quota. They said they would write to me to let me know how long the tobaco should last and when i can go again . I'v heard nothing".

"I have been travelling to foreign shores for many years in order to stock up at realistic prices and, no doubt like all of your other users, have become increasingly frustrated at being treated like a 2nd class citizen by our so called 'democratic' government"

"she opened my bag then went in my purse and took all my contents out even read a letter my son had wrote me. She kept me for 2 hours then confiscated my goods as im a regular traveller on the 1p flights .i am disabled and they are cheap holidays.she was arrogant"

"On a recent return from Alicante to London Stansted My wife and I were stopped by customs and asked where we had come from and the purporse of our visit, also whether we had any tobbacco? I explained that we had spent my birthday in Spain and met family members there. Whilst there we purchased 32 cartons {16 each} of the same brand cigarettes and 120 pkts of tobacco {80} each, this was to last us both until our next trip which was already booked for 5 months time. We were asked how much money we made per month, Who had paid for the trip, how much did the tobacco cost, how many cigarettes we smoked per day, how many times do we travel and why were we buying cigaretes and tobacco? After many more less important questions we were then asked to empty other luggage from a smaller bag which contained our dirty washing, this was spread all over the desk in full view of all the other passengers walking through this search area. Passengers wolf whistling whe the customs officer held my wifes knickers in the air. What a humiliating experience. This should be a private search and private interview and NOT a chance for customs officers to give us as much embarresment as they can. After 2 hours of checking on us they agreed to let us take the tobacco but warned us that when we travel in 5 months time then they would not expect us to have anywhere near the amount we brought back this time. We were also told by one custom officer that we are now on her "system" for any future travels. That`s nothing but a threat surely? Overall, a degrading experience which could happen to anyone so beware. In future I will write to the customs in advance and let them know when I`m travelling and what I intend to bring back, maybe this will show that we are not smugglers?"

"Basically they're a law unto themselves and think they can behave as they like. "

"no witnesses, no recording devices, humiliation."

"HMRC seizing goods from passengers coming back to the United Kingdom from Europe, is in my view State Run Crime, goods are seized from vulnerable passengers such as OAP's. Every British Subject is entitled to a proper hearing before a court of law. HMRC are intimidating passengers so as to Steal their Goods. "

"i went on my first ever daytrip to France yesterday with my 1 and only new passport going i was stopped coach serched and people by sniffer dog then back on got stopped again and me and 5 other taken off and serched, comming back we was pulled in again in a room on my own questioned but relested 3 other had goods taken they were not over limit makes me afrade to go anywhere again."

"Human Rights are of no consequence to them because they hide and manipulate the Crown Immmunity awarded to themselves nor ever voted for by the public. There is no appeal system as they have chosen to operate a no cooperation policy through their Lawyers who can block any serious enquiry into their wrong doings or maladministration."

"i can completely understand why people give up and fly to spain."

"I have been using your site for reference for a couple of years now and I would like to start by saying Well Done and Thanks for a great source of information. Being a naughty old smoker, I have been travelling to foreign shores for many years in order to stock up at realistic prices and, no doubt like all of your other users, have become increasingly frustrated at being treated like a 2nd class citizen by our so called 'democratic' government."

"Stopped by Customs today, whose questioning is amazing. I was actually asked why I had not returned immediately to the United Kingdom after visiting my Notaire, and told it was very odd that I did not! Where do they find these people? Apparently they also expect you to tell them everywhere you have been, including times, and draw very suspicious conclusions if you do not immediately and fully do this. Odd.

What right do they have to intrude so deeply in our personal daily lives? Does it really matter to our State security that I stopped off at Cap Blanc Nez and did not mention it? Apparently it is.

I had nine bottles of wine with me. No wonder I find used syringes in the garden of my London house and the price of drugs is so cheap in the United Kingdom.

Also accused of being a liar because I forgot I had some business cards in an envelope, inside a box, in another box in the back of my car after having said I did not have any one me (I didn't). Very offensive, why doesn't someone train them in the art of being civil and serving the public interest?

Do your jobs guys, regular travellers are normal and law abiding – PLEASE CATCH CRIMINALS."

"by the way all the soliciters i phoned when i got back would not lock horns with the customs they all told me to forget it. great eh?"

"The attitude of customs staff (control freaks!) discusting! we work hard pay our taxes only to have an upset child. I fully agree with your web site. ps do they catch real criminals ?"

"CE say we can never bring anything back again or it will be automatically seized and we will be charged."

"A reader who had gone over with a friend for "a good lunch in Le Touquet" and to bring back three months' supply of cigarettes and wine, was subjected by the Dover officials to the usual grilling.

What was his occupation? "Retired naval officer." What had he done in the Navy? He had served for 20 years in submarines. Implying that he must be lying, the official told him he was "too tall" to have served in submarines. The captain was then given a political lecture. The lower price of cigarettes in Europe merely balanced their higher rates of income tax."

"When a mate of mine and I last went to Calais (we usually go twice a year), my car was searched and we were asked how much cash we were carrying (not a lot, aren't credit cards wonderful?) by one or two men who did not identify themselves and did not tell us why they were searching my car. They looked at our passports, holding on to them during the search. We took this to be a "normal" security spot check and were allowed to drive on (apart from the 2 of us the car was empty).

From what I have read in the press recently, I have gathered that they were, probably, HMRC operatives looking for likely suspects returning with excess to the recommended amounts of booze and tobacco. We buy little tobacco and only buy sufficient booze to keep us and our immediate families going until the next trip!

What rights do they have to stop and search in this way and can we, the travellers, challenge them and ask for their identification, i.e. warrant card or similar? What else can innocent travellers like us do to avoid suspicion? Thank you for taking the interests of the likes of us so seriously!"

"i was recently robbed in broad daylight by customs officers at dover and i was within the guide lines of 3 kilos of tobacco and 15 sleeves of cigs the officer who interviewed me subjected me to a degrading, uncomfortable session in which he took my goods then told me the coach i was on, would leave without me and he would keep me waiting for hours to be interviewed at length about why i would want to travel to luxembourg to buy cigs and bacca."

"My car and goods were seized by customs on 14/08/2008. I was within the legal guidelines but because i travel to France often they assumed i did this each time which i did not. I have not been stopped by customs this year or last. I am also having trouble finding a solicitor (can you help) because to appeal. The car is a motabillity vehicle. "

Comment on The Independant Newspaper web site.

"I've also been stopped and searched both entering and leaving the port of Dover. I never bring anything tobacco or otherwise but still they persist. Meanwhile illegals are getting in and smuggling goes on in big trucks far removed from private cars. Like you I'm fed up with it to the degree now that I just avoid going not only be ferry but by air"

"I used to work in shipping and at least once a fortnight, I learned a "Customs Examination" had been carried out on one of my containers. The container usually contained alcohol. The goods taken are never returned. I'd like to know what actually happens to a case of Johnny Walker that MUST be examined? Like anyone else with powers to seize assets, these guys are at it most of the time and I'm glad they've finally got their fingers burnt. Well and truly."

"Having first hand experience of my parents convction for exceeding what must only be regarded as an arbitary quoter for the possssion of tobacco, the state is seems requires no proof of guilt of any offence, no intent to defaud no corroborating evidence to prove any wrongdoing. It seems we live in modern fiefdom with nothing more than brigands at the borders."

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The webmasters view – some experiences

June 2011 – Well done UKBA! I have now been stopped 6 out of 8 times returning through Dover. And they say it's not harassment. A question – why aren't they catching criminals or looking for counterfeit goods, or even more importantly drugs?

April 30th 2011 – Hello again! UKBA still hard at it intimidating travellers and not catching criminals (from the Blog)

Like many British people I celebrate my freedoms, which nowadays I only seem to be able to enjoy as a foreigner in Europe. Once again (third time in a row) I am stopped by UKBA at Dover. I insist (again) on complaining, as this wastes their time at least, sparing other shoppers the distressing experience of assumed criminality, because they have been stupid enough to cross their countries borders. Hopefully my individual act will encourage them to concentrate on criminals instead. However, I resent building time into my journey when returning to my country of domicile, a feeling I know many of you share, as you have been angry enough to write to me about it.

The lady who stops me (according to my understanding of the English language – she stood in front of me with here hand up), is perfectly polite until I ask why I have been stopped (again) and doesn't this constitute harassment? I point out I am British not an East German. Of course I can confidently do this as I can truly say I have never broken a law, been prosecuted etc. Neither do I smoke, nor have I ever bought tobacco. There is no reason, other than that I cross my countries borders, to stop me. Despite UKBA denying this to me repeatedly, the evidence is overwhelming.

I was advised to look at them as I drove through. Yes, my car is clearly marked as they usually look down at their prepared sheet and then stop me. I drive slowly to help them and prove the point. It makes no difference if I am returning from a daytrip or a longer stay away.

The usually questions; "Where have I been? Why? Where are you going?"

I ask the lady wearing an official uniform with a big badge saying UKBA "why have you stopped me again", once again the usual no respect for the British public response "I personally did not stop you", something I think they have been trained to say as it's the standard response. These people seem to thrive on throwing their weight about and start of on the foot marked "intimidate" almost immediately.

I ask for the lady's number which I had been previously assured she had to give me. As regular readers know, I ask this question every time I get stopped, yet it has always been refused me. Quite how you can make a complaint about your treatment in their hands when you cannot say who stopped or questioned you is beyond me.

I insist on making a complaint and ask for her number or name, at which point she turns and walks away. The usual response is to be told "stop being silly". This time a more senior bod arrives and tells me to drive into the shed. A very intimidating "we'll be at least half an hour is muttered". The utter contempt they have for me is obvious. How dare I complain! Strangely in Police / UKBA speak I am later told this is a polite warning that they are busy! It did not sound like it.

I do not, for one second, believe the British public should be treated like this by civil servants. Like most Brits, I like my police and civil servants most when they catch criminals, not act as a revenue raising arm of HMRC. I also expect them to be civil and serve especially to people of whom they have no evidence of wrongdoing. Patronising taxpayers is not being civil, according to my understanding of the English language anyway. Lying, another value UKBA and HMRC seem to have embraced with far too much vigour, is frequently evident. They like to create the impression of knowing about your movements, lying is an easy way to do this. Having wised up to this, after having been initially alarmed that my movements in Europe were being monitored (they implied they knew I had been in Adinkerke), another time I stood my ground and just said no to the "you really haven't been anywhere else, are you sure?" question, when I had been there. Of course they may well have known, but as I have done nothing wrong, other than travelled, legally there is nothing they could do. Now, if I had had tobacco, they would have assumed I was a smuggler and seized my car, even though they have absolutely no evidence I was to sell it for personal profit. However the "scare the public" tactics are part and parcel of the fight to "frustrate the flow of tobacco". In a way it's worked, I never take anyone with me who smokes, and if asked if they can buy anything I refuse, a restriction I resent being imposed on me. Don't buy into the "we are looking for drugs, ammunition etc. line", so keen are they to stop people buying tobacco that drug smugglers get through easily.

This time it's a policeman who talks to me. Sadly the patronising attitude of UKBA is on full display – "as an intelligent person you should understand", "you are obviously educated", and "why do you object to the necessary work of UKBA?" (because when it happens all the time it is harassment). Once again the UKBA speak is different to mine as a law abiding tax payer. Necessary to me means targeting criminals not the general public. Yes, I am better educated than many, but this is why I get angry and want answers to my very simple questions.

No Officer, I do not buy into your protecting the countries borders talk, I would believe you if you were targeting illegal asylum seekers, drug smugglers, looking for explosives etc. I often make the point that the UKBA is about using the border to control those of us living within it, not the place where we protect the country. The discussion moves on, sadly proving my point that although named the U.K. Border Agency, this arm of Government is mainly about Revenue protection (people who buy their tobacco and alcohol abroad, however legally, are depriving the Government of money and according to UKBA's definition, are smugglers). Rarely is mention made of drugs and explosives (I think I have these mentioned to me three times in seventeen years).

It is pointed out that they do sometimes find class a drugs. If the police started stopping every person they passed by on our streets, they too may catch a criminal. But they don't – they devote most of their time to catching criminals, usually on the job.

After a period of discussion on the issues, during which I clearly identify myself (rolling eyes), a quite constructive conversation takes place. All very illuminating. I discover for example that what constitutes a stop is even more rigid than I believed. Last time I insisted on complaining (not often as I like to get home to my wife and cats), I learnt that a stop is, in UKBA / HMRC speak, only when you are taken into the sheds. Of course if you do not stop when they put their hand up and drive on, the cat's claws come up up and you get prosecuted for ... not stopping. When you see a spokesperson or Government Minister saying few people get stopped, bear this in mind. The fact is, we don't feature in the statistics.

Now I am told a stop is only when they have the dogs out etc. (I've been through that a few times). I point out that intelligence led operations are likely to produce better results and keep the public on side. They disagree with my comment that the French do this as I see them stop lorries all over the country frequently. The French Customs also concentrate on finding counterfeit goods and drugs, something which is a very low priority for UKBA / HMRC here. I have never once seen a HMRC officer anywhere other than at a British port (and Eurotunnel), yet anyone driving to Adinkerke will usually see the French "Douanier" somewhere along the road.

The UKBA man asks if I would come down and see them in action, I told him I would. I doubt very much if this will happen though. I point out to him that after the Hoverspeed appeal, I phoned HMRC offering to help them come up with a sensible, practical policy to deal with smugglers that did not involve criminalising the ordinary travelling (and shopping) public. I was politely told they did not need any help. I strongly believe they should criminalise those who actually sell the stuff or are found with large quantities in their homes or workplaces, and not make seizures on the basis of assumption (your attitude, appallingly, is one factor that sees them seize your goods and car – NO EVIDENCE NEEDED). How can the great British public respect their work (I'm talking about the important stuff – drugs, guns, bombs etc.) when, as happened recently, people who had tobacco seized from their homes, had it returned as the wrong law had been referred to in the documents. They clearly prefer soft targets and avoid actual criminals. I am reminded of that lovely MATT cartoon in the Telegraph newspaper when it was disclosed the Police were avoiding some areas, when an old lady tells the police officers that there is trouble in the town square. They reply " thanks for telling us, we were about to go there".

At the Hoverspeed appeal HMRC asked "Whether Customs are permitted to rely upon general trends and profiles when selecting passengers for questioning". In its judgment of 31st July 2002 the High Court found that Customs had to have reasonable grounds "on an individualised basis" before they were entitled to stop passengers for questioning and were not entitled to rely upon "generalities or trends". The Court of Appeal said that the law does not permit random spot checks but there is nothing to exclude reliance on profiles and trends to establish reasonable grounds to suspect a passenger of bringing in goods for commercial purposes.

My questions as to why I am being monitored always bring the response "that it's a random stop". Interesting legally. Also, how long is stopping on "profiling grounds" allowed to go on, when does it become harassment? The reason for the stop is to establish the persons credibility surely? How many times over how many years is this necessary to establish?

This time the discussion reasonably moves on to the issues and why people get stopped. I confess I am full of admiration for the guy speaking to me (wouldn't give me his name) for at least trying to explain why they behave as they do. Once he moved beyond the patronising, I felt he was able to argue his case intelligently.

However the bottom line I am told, is that for me as a white male crossing the border frequently, (journalist covering France, publisher, property owner, person with friends abroad – lots of good, positive reasons to do so), I bizzarly, pop up on their profiling system as a prime suspect. I would argue that after 17 years of frequent stops it's time to draw a conclusion as to my potential for criminality. I would argue to that profiling of this nature is just plain wrong. After all the Police can't stop every black person they meet because many of the teenage killings in London for example, usually involve black teenagers. Why should every traveller be treated on this basis because some smuggle?

I have in the past offered to come down and talk to them, let them look into my personal life in as much detail as they want, and then clear me to travel without being stopped all the time. Apparently this is not possible.

There is a huge problem with illegally sold tobacco in this country, inevitable in a country with such high taxes. Far from criminalising this act, various Governments have gone down the road of "frustrating the flow of tobacco" (actual phrase used), and tried to intimidate travellers from buying anything abroad or indeed, travelling as often as they would like. The end result has been to empower organised crime who do know how to smuggle. According to HMRC's own surveys, nearly 100% of tobacco sold on our streets illegally is now counterfeit, considerably more dangerous than legally bought products and of course without any money going to any E.U. Government. Large sums of money are spent trying to stop this, but its clearly not working. The take (tax raised) has not risen, neither has the proportion of tobacco smoked from illegal sources declined. Customs will say they are effective because the percentage of legally bought tobacco smoked has declined, but they ignore the dramatic increase in counterfeit products now smoked. When speaking to the shopkeepers in Adinkerke recently I was told that many more people are coming to Adinkerke "because the stuff sold on the streets now is all counterfeit". Sadly, politicians nowadays accept what they are told by UKBA / HMRC, without much rational questioning it seems.

Be wary too, if you have a speech impediment, what a wonderful opportunity this is to humiliate!

After recent seizures of pallets loads of stuff on lorries (that's right, not cars or coaches), Customs have forced the tobacco companies to reduce supplies of English tobacco to Belgium and Luxembourg. If they were tackling crime of course they would be punishing those involved, not the innocent public, but that is just what they are doing.

Many years ago, a coach trip was the easiest and cheapest way to stock up. Faced with visits and all sorts of threats, most coach companies have stopped these trips. Did you know Customs require them to provide a list of the people travelling and sometimes even fax over a list of those returning as well? And they object to me comparing their behaviour to that of the East German Democratic Republic?

After 12 years, I would say it's time for a dramatic change in policy. Someone once suggested to me that HMRC strategy seems to revolve around throwing a big net into the sea to catch a shark, but then dealing with the small fry they bring aboard, few of whom eat humans. Apt.

The solution in my opinion, and I speak as someone who probably has a more rounded knowledge of the issue that the "experts" at HMRC, having spoken to a very wide range of people, including smugglers, is to lower taxes to a level about 20% above neighbouring countries, dramatically force UKBA / HMRC to concentrate on criminals and criminal prosecutions, and use the money saved currently wasted prosecuting ordinary taxpayers and citizens, to be more pro active in their intelligence led work.

So yes, I still feel like a returning criminal when I come home, and I end by saying once again, I'm British and a citizen of a member state of the E.U., NOT AN EAST GERMAN!

19th August 2010 – U.K. Border Agency lying again. I object to being followed and monitored just because as a British citizen I have crossed my own country's border. Frequent travellers appear on a list which you will see them looking at when you arrive.

Once again I am stopped today even though I have been away two weeks. It is obvious I am being targeted. Like most law abiding citizen against whom they cannot have the slightest evidence of criminality or wrongdoing, I resent it very much. Shouldn't they be tackling criminals?

If they have the time to tackle me, this is surely a part of Government we could do without.

Once again when I ask why I have been stopped and I am told they cannot tell me. I ask to make an official complaint, and finally a senior bod comes down. I ask why I have been stopped again and am told I have not been stopped. Hand in front of windscreen, questioning. If that isn't a stop what is? Apparently it's only a stop if you are taken into the sheds. One is forced to wonder if this is to make the figures more "presentable". What are the real figures I wonder?

I suggest they are bastardising the English language. I ask (as always) for his identity, as how can I make a complaint if I don't know who I am complaining about? He assures me they always give their numbers out. In 17 years of asking I have been repeatedly told they cannot do this.Yet I pointedly ask each time. I suppose this fits in with their normal tactics of making us feel uncomfortable or implying we are lying just because we cross our country's borders.

Somewhere along the line he seems to suggest travel frequency is a factor. Wow!

He then ventures to suggest my windscreen is dirty and I was stopped because they couldn't see me. If this is the case, why aren't the lights positioned to allow them to do their job easily? They must think we are stupid or very gullible. No, I do not believe his excuses. It is clearly a pattern of behaviour designed to intimidate and make us all feel uncomfortable.

Furthermore, I always watch them, and yes they did check a list before stopping me today as normal. I am on a list prepared beforehand, it is very clear from the frequent stops I endure. I do make a point of observing them closely always. The important question is this. Should this be happening in 2010 in a member state of the E.U.?

Once again I leave feeling ashamed to be a citizen of country that intimidates law abiding citizens. Come on coalition, if ever there was an area of Government that shows how damaging New Labour was to our lives and freedoms, the U.K. Border Agency is surely it?

June 1st 2010 – If ever there was an arm of Government that should be abolished, it is the U.K. Border Agency in its current incarnation.

Today I waited for 45 minutes just to present my passport at Calais. When I asked what the cause of the delay was, the official blamed the French. I did not see one French official, in or out. The Officials checking cars for hidden immigrants are doing a worthwhile job but the bureaucracy we endure seems to affect British taxpayers and travellers only. Given that I, a British subject and foreigner in Europe, had been able to cross the French / Belgium border without even having to slow down, says everything about the ridiculous British way of doing things. Once again British coaches, full of British citizens are being stopped and searched. I miss my ferry.

British passport controls

Mostly British cars, who have driven around Europe as foreigners without being stopped, questioned or detained, waiting to come home.

Unfortunately, once again I am stopped at Dover. Are we really trusted so little we have to be stopped twice? I politely enquire why I have been stopped (there can be no reason as I never break the law or buy tobacco). I get the usual "fighting crime" talk. I suggest they have stopped me because I travel frequently (last week and this week – definite criminal intent there!)

When I suggest I have been stopped once again because as a British citizen I am stupid enough to cross my own countries borders frequently, I get a spiel about drugs. I congratulate the lady officer on asking me this. In 16 years of frequent travel I have only been asked about drugs three times. Do I believe they are fighting criminals or criminal activity? Not at all, they are being thoroughly dishonest in my experience. My own experiences, and I know from the many e-mails I get as well, suggests that they target regular travellers. Why? I presume it's to intimidate us and discourage us from travelling.

I tell the lady officer I am not an East German. Please could she tell me why I have been stopped? She cannot. Given that these little Hitlers do little that is positive, they have no means of identification and refuse to provide any, (I use the word deliberately as they DO INTIMIDATE British citizens who cross this countries borders, and I for one resent bitterly being treated like a criminal just because I travel), it is clear to me this arm of Government does more harm than good. Imagine if they were banned from questioning British passport holders at our ports? They would have to rely on intelligence as other European countries do, and no doubt actually catch many more criminals.

Luckily however today the sheds are already full, so they do not take me into the sheds to "show me" what they are about, by deliberately detaining me for an hour and a half. I think back to the e-mail I go from a motoring correspondent who tells me he now flies out to test cars to avoid being detained when passing through Dover.

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