We will all be tired of hearing and talking about Brexit over the next 18 months, but it is a subject that is not going to go away. Equally importantly from our perspective, Brexit has the potential substantially to affect and disrupt the bloodstock and racing industries across Europe.
To best negotiate the pitfalls that lie ahead, I am chairing a racing industry Brexit group, and the BHA was part of a well-prepared delegation that met the EU negotiator in Brussels in late September. The members were Nick Rust, Brian Kavanagh and Paul-Marie Gadot, of the BHA, Horse Racing Ireland and France Galop respectively, representing the governing bodies of racing in Britain, Ireland and France.
They received a disappointing reception, along the lines we have seen consistently in public from the EU’s general negotiators, who seemingly are not prepared to discuss detailed matters until the major issues of payment, citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland are settled. The frosty response came in spite of encouragement from other sources in Brussels that as far as the tripartite agreement on the free movement of horses was concerned, we were pushing at an open door.
As our influence in Brussels wanes, it will be up to the other EU countries, with our support, to push for a sensible solution from their side
As Gadot told the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities conference in Paris the day after the Arc: “The EU negotiator’s position is simple and it has not changed: on March 29, 2019 the UK will be a third country and the tripartite agreement will no longer exist.”
The agreement between Britain, France and Ireland, or a form of it, which they and others would like to see continued, has been altered or updated during Britain’s time as a member of the EU, and having been contained in an EC directive since 2009, is part of EU legislation. Its continuation is therefore not an option, so alternatives and a Plan B need to be explored more fully.
Whatever happens, it is worth remembering that the World Trade Organisation, of which one would expect the EU and Britain to remain members, does not have tariffs on pedigree breeding livestock, under which thoroughbreds are clearly covered, and so it seems extremely unlikely that any tariffs or taxes between the EU or the rest of the world, other than for geldings, would apply.
The practical issue of the movement of thoroughbreds will come down to the views held by the EU and Britain about the health, welfare and veterinary practices within each country, and whether each side can be confident that the free movement of horses between countries does not involve a greater risk of disease or other danger than that which would be eliminated by quarantine or veterinary checks at the point of import.
As our influence in Brussels wanes, it will be up to the other EU countries, with our support, to push for a sensible solution from their side. We will work with DEFRA and the Brexit ministry to make sure we have a co-ordinated position when the politicians are ready to act.
For many years all the countries involved have been satisfied free movement is safe and works for all thoroughbreds, so it is difficult to see why, suddenly, this should change and who would benefit.
Without a similar system to the tripartite agreement many breeders and racehorse owners across Europe would suffer serious delays to horse movements and the associated costs, and, of course, any delays to the transport of horses would have welfare issues. The remaining EU countries, France and particularly Ireland, probably have more to lose than Britain.
Working with our European counterparts, information is being gathered on the value of these movements, trade in the thoroughbred and the economic impact, particularly in rural areas, in each country. We need to be armed with as many facts and figures as possible to persuade those involved of the importance of the industry.
There is a long way to go and much political manoeuvring to come, but in the end the welfare of the horse and the ability to move thoroughbreds easily around Europe must be our paramount aim.