Tuesday 21 August 2018

Brexit 'biggest worry' for horse industry

Trainer Jessica Harrington
Trainer Jessica Harrington

Laura Lynott

Brexit is now the "biggest worry" facing the equestrian and horse racing industries in Ireland.

Experts warn that the sale and breeding of horses, as well as racing, is hugely reliant on integration between Ireland and the UK.

A major report today will explore the "challenges of Brexit for Irish Sport Horse Industry, an export-led rural Irish industry with an economic value of over €800m".

It will be launched by economist Jim Power, former TD Lucinda Creighton and Ronan Murphy, the CEO of Horse Sport Ireland.

"The challenges of Brexit, in whatever form it takes, will pose real challenges for this industry," it notes.

Speaking in advance of its publication, one of Ireland's most successful horse trainers, Jessica Harrington, spoke of her Brexit concerns.

"The worst possible thing you can think about is exporting horses with a hard Border. Do we want to go back to bad old days? No," Ms Harrington told the Irish Independent.

"We have millions of concerns but until we know if it's a hard or soft Border, we don't know what our difficulties will be. But one thing is certain, there will be major difficulties if there is a hard Border."

Ms Harrington recalls driving to Northern Ireland 40 years ago, at the height of the Troubles, and the conditions of operating between borders.

"Everything was more complex and time-consuming, having to get vet certs, clearances. I'd have to drive to Naas, Co Kildare, to go to the Department of Agriculture, then from there, to get all the papers and on up into the Border.

"I'd have to stop, get the papers stamped. You could be queuing for a long time and there's a lot more traffic on the road now.

"And you would have to repeat that whole process to go to England with horses. What will happen with a hard Border again?

"If the Irish industry sells horses to England, there will be customs implications, charges."

Brian Kavanagh, the CEO of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), labelled Brexit "a huge worry, the biggest worry we are facing within this industry."

"The selling and breeding of horses is about the integration between Ireland and England and the way the horses move between the two countries," he added.

The Irish breeding and racing industry generates over €1.8bn and employs 29,000 - with many of those jobs in rural Ireland, according to a study by Deloitte, conducted on behalf of HRI.

Mr Kavanagh said the industry in Ireland is making submissions to the EU to allow for the freedom of movement for horses to continue beyond Brexit but he admitted a "no-deal Brexit would be a complete nightmare".

Irish Independent

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