Post-Brexit border checks on horses 'a nightmare scenario'
Having to impose border checks on horses post-Brexit will be a "formidable challenge", an expert has warned.
John Melville, veterinary inspector with the Department of Agriculture, said the prospect of World Trade Organisation rules and tariffs being imposed once the UK pulls out of the European Union is the "absolute nightmare scenario, the worst possible outcome".
Those involved in the equine industry have argued that Ireland and the UK are intrinsically linked when it comes to horses, and that a hard Brexit will play havoc with the equine industry across the island. The industry operates on an all-island basis, with horses, trainers and riders regularly moving between both jurisdictions.
The horse sport industry generates more than €700m for the economy, an event at the RDS heard yesterday, and employs more than 12,500 people.
The event, held on the eve of the Dublin Horse Show, was organised to highlight the problems faced by the horse sport industry in the context of Brexit.
Mr Melville said horses entering any EU member state from a so-called third country, which the UK will become if a deal cannot be thrashed out between it and the EU, have to enter through a border inspection post. Every week, he said, a number of horses enter Ireland from the United States and have to undergo a formal procedure at Dublin Airport involving document and identity checks, and sometimes physical checks.
"It could take several hours for a bigger consignment," Mr Melville said.
"If the UK becomes a third country, my fears are that we might end up with the need for border inspection posts with Northern Ireland, at Dublin Port for movements from Holyhead, at Rosslare Port for movements from Fishguard.
"The thought of having to equip and staff border inspection posts for the many, many thousands of movements of horses from the UK is quite a formidable challenge."