Brexit ‘could decimate Ireland’s horse racing industry’

Horse Racing Ireland warn of potential effect of a hard Brexit

Horse Racing Ireland’s chairman has warned of the potential restrictions on the free movement of horses between the UK and the Republic after Brexit. Photograph: PA Wire

Horse Racing Ireland’s chairman has warned of the potential restrictions on the free movement of horses between the UK and the Republic after Brexit. Photograph: PA Wire

 

A hard Brexit could decimate Ireland’s horse racing and breeding industry, resulting in hefty tariffs on the sale of horses into the UK and restrictions on horses being brought there to race, the chairman of Horse Racing Ireland has warned.

Joe Keeling said the industry here exported 65 per cent of its produce mainly to the UK and a reversion to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules under a hard Brexit would result in an 11.5 per cent tariff on gelding sales, on top of the current sterling differential.

An even bigger threat, he said, would be the potential restrictions on the free movement of horses between the two countries, which currently apply to non-EU countries, a scenario that might prompt big stables here to move to the UK.

“The industries in both countries are completely interlinked, they operate as one,” Mr Keeling said, noting that about 50 racehorses from Britain and France were due to compete at Leopardstown and the Curragh this weekend.

Worried

He said the British authorities were equally worried about the disruptive impact of Brexit and were due to accompany their Irish counterparts to Brussels next week to relay their concerns directly to the European Commission.

Mr Keeling was speaking at the launch of a Deloitte report on the racing and breeding industry here, which indicated it supported about €1.8 billion in economic activity and roughly 15,000 directly jobs and a further 14,000 indirectly.

Highlighting the industry’s global standing, the report noted that one in five of the top 100 rated flat horses in 2016 were Irish bred and that there are 50 thoroughbred horses for every 10,000 people in Ireland, compared to between three and five in Britain, France and the US.

The research, commissioned by Horse Racing Ireland, also revealed that Ireland produced the third highest number of horses in the world behind the US and Australia and was second largest in terms of bloodstock sales despite being a fraction of the size of its direct competitors.

Of the major thoroughbred auctions that took place in Ireland, Britain and France in 2016, Irish vendors comprised €338 million (45 per cent) of total sales, with €196 million of these sales to non-Irish buyers.

Popularity

These sales represent foreign direct investment into the economy, the report said.

The popularity of racing domestically was also a focus of the report, with 1.3 million people attending 356 fixtures at 26 racecourses, second only to the GAA in terms of sporting attendances.

Despite the recession of the past decade, the report estimates that more than €330 million has been invested in breeding and racing facilities, including racecourses.

“The headline figures in this new report back up the assertion that breeding and racing in Ireland is a unique industry with a wide rural reach and a sizeable economic impact at home,” Mr Keeling said. “But it is also one that continues to set global standards on many of the most important measures for our sector.”