Friday 23 March 2018

Concern about free movement post-Brexit isn't just about people - it could apply to horses too

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Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

Worries about free movement in the context of Brexit don't simply apply to people. Concerns have been raised about horses also.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has warned the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union poses significant implications for Ireland’s thoroughbred industry.

Horse racing and thoroughbred breeding essentially operates on an all-island basis, he said, with horses, trainers and riders regularly moving between both jurisdictions.

“The introduction of tariffs or regulations has the potential to increase the cost of business and reduce the free movement of labour and horses,” Mr Creed said, in response to a parliamentary question from Independent TD Tommy Broughan.

Mr Creed said trainers in Northern Ireland are licensed by the Irish Turf Club, and races there are run under the Turf Club’s Rules of Racing.

“90pc of runners at these fixtures are trained in the Republic with horses moving on a daily basis, so the return to a hard border would seriously disrupt this movement,” he added.

“The two countries operate a single entity for stud book purposes  - ie British and Irish foals are both registered in the one stud book - and together with France, have historically had a tripartite agreement between the respective Departments of Agriculture to facilitate free movement of thoroughbred horses between the three countries.”

Ireland exports of thoroughbreds to Britain are worth around €225 million each year, he said. This may be at risk due to reduced trade flows following the Brexit vote, the Government believes.

The horse industry overall contributes in excess of €1.1 billion annually to the Irish economy.

“Brexit may have very serious implications for the Irish thoroughbred racing and breeding industry and the concerns of the sector will need to be taken into account in any discussions/negotiations on the matter,” the minister added.

“To a large extent the horse racing and breeding industries of the UK and Ireland operate as one with horses, trainers, riders regularly moving between both jurisdictions.”

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