Horse Racing Ireland ‘preparing for the worst’ as Brexit looms

Authorities hopeful ‘common sense’ prevails and free movement of horses can continue

Tiger Roll (13) and Davy Russell en-route to victory in the 2018 Grand National. The UK is set to leave the European Union on March 29th, less than a week before the 2019 running. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty

Tiger Roll (13) and Davy Russell en-route to victory in the 2018 Grand National. The UK is set to leave the European Union on March 29th, less than a week before the 2019 running. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty

 

Racing authorities here hope “common sense” will prevail and a Brexit deal can be done which allows easy movement of horses to continue between Ireland and the UK.

However Horse Racing Ireland’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh stressed on Sunday that both racing’s ruling body and the Department Of Agriculture are preparing for a no-deal situation.

“We’re hoping for the best but preparing for the worst,” Kavanagh said. “We have to be prepared for a no-deal scenario”

Over the weekend the UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs issued guidelines in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

It referenced the possibility of horses arriving in the UK but not being allowed to return home.

The UK is set to leave the European Union on March 29th, less than a week before the Aintree Grand National.

Reports that Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, regards a no-deal Brexit as the ‘likeliest outcome’ add further uncertainty within the racing and bloodstock sector here.

“In the sector we’re making progress with the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) and France Galop. But we’re trapped in the outcome of the macro negotiations,” Brian Kavanagh acknowledged.

The tripartite agreement between Ireland, Britain and France, which predates 1973’s UK and Irish entry into the European Union, allows free movement of horses between Europe’s three major bloodstock countries.

Hopes are high that if a Brexit deal is struck, a two-year transition period will allow new EU animal health law - which may include a proposed new ‘High Health’ category for thoroughbreds - to be finalised and allow freedom of movement to continue.

“It’s designed that if a country can provide adequate evidence to the EU that a strong system of sanitary care, traceability and oversight in terms of animal health is in place, then horses can move to another country that has the same type of system in place, with no risk of disease outbreak.

“It has received a very good welcome in Brussels. Having said that there are still details to work on in terms of movement between EU countries and most importantly from our point of view movement between EU countries and third countries,” Kavanagh said.

“The best case scenario is that Britain leaves the EU with a deal and the tripartite agreement will cover the transition period to the end of 2020.

“That will allow time to bed down the ‘High Health’ concept into EU animal health law and for Britain to be categorised as a third country which will allow free movement of horses. It will also take away the threat of tariffs. But it’s contingent on the high politics.

“In a worst case scenario we’re looking at no deal and requirements for horses to move through designated border inspection points in the UK, none of which are close to racing and breeding centres.

“We will be looking for maximum flexibility within that scenario. For example Ireland is regarded as a single unit for disease purposes, not just for horses but other species such as cattle and sheep.

“So we will be looking for commonsense, practical solutions, such as green channels for live animals at customs points or else there will be endless queues. Because in a no-deal scenario everything will have to be checked,” he added.

Kavanagh stressed that all efforts made by the racing industry are by definition in the context of much wider political considerations.

“We have to hope that common sense prevails at governmental level and a deal can be done. The fear is that in the political dynamics as they are at the moment, even against better judgement, we could stumble into a no-deal scenario,” he said.

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