Thousands of British citizens fear their votes in the EU referendum could have got lost in the post after Germany’s postal service said its workers were confused by the format of pre-paid envelopes sent out to Britons living abroad. A spokesperson for Germany’s postal service, Deutsche Post, said that while the pre-paid envelopes were valid under the Internal Business Reply Service (IBRS) scheme, many of its employees had rejected the envelopes and told voters to pay postage instead. More than 100,000 British citizens are registered as living in Germany. The confusion has arisen partly because the European Union has so far failed to regulate the size of standard letters across the continent.
Some post offices in Germany have informed British citizens that they could not accept the A5 envelopes sent out on the IBRS scheme since they did not comply with the German definition of a standard letter, namely no larger than 90x140mm in size and weighing no more than 50g. Royal Mail, by contrast, classifies A5 envelopes as standard letters.
“As IBRS is a product that is seldom posted at our outlets it might happen that a retail partner who is not familiar with IBRS requests postage from the sender,” said the spokesperson. “In this case, the customers concerned can alternatively throw the envelopes in one of our 110,000 letterboxes.” He said that the chances of postal workers handling letters in the post boxes not forwarding the letters to the UK were “extremely small”.
The Electoral Commission said in a statement: “We are aware that a very small number of voters may have been incorrectly informed that the postal service in a handful of locations in Europe cannot accept IBRS items.