Brexit and the trade and travel barriers that it entails are causing concern for horse traders and trainers in Ireland, where the equestrian industry is closely tied to Britain.
A year after the fateful votes of the British and EU officially began the first round of negotiations to bring Britain out of the block. Regardless of the specific terms agreed upon by officials, the impact of Brexit on the UK and the region will be enormous, with a wide range of influences from banks based in London on people rearing and training horses in Ireland.
Ireland, with its geographical location outside of the European continent, is at risk of a road crossing across the UK to connect to Europe will be divided after Brexit and hinder Irish trade activities to EU market.
“Our concern is that if there are any trade barriers or tariffs on horse carriage between Ireland and England, it will have a negative impact”, Reuters quoted Henry Beeby, director of Goff, the leading horse trading company in Ireland.
“Thanks to thoroughbred horses, we become an exporting country and we need to be exported without any obstacles or barriers,” he said. Two-thirds of the horses born in Ireland each year are exported and 80% of them are exported to England.
Equine trainers face similar anxiety. About 10,000 racing horses are put between the UK and Ireland each year. The close distance, the easy movement makes Irish horses have access to major events and get outstanding success. In Cheltenham, England’s most famous horse race in March, Irish horses accounted for 19 of the 28 winning horses, including the horse that won the Sizing John Gold Cup.
“In fact, we are twins and inseparable industries”, Brian Kavanagh, head of the Irish horse racing governing the body, told parliament about the UK and Ireland horse racing industry.
“Unlike other industries affected by Brexit, we cannot adjust our products to adapt to new markets. Royal Ascot, Cheltenham, Aintree and Epsom (major horse racing events in the UK) cannot perform out in some other countries”, Kavanagh argues.
Ireland, France and England – the three countries with the most developed horse racing industry in Europe – have an agreement that allows horses registered in one country to freely move to the other two countries without veterinary inspection. Jessica Harrington, the trainer of the championship horse Sizing John, remembers the time before 1998 when the border was still full of checkpoints and horses could be kept there for hours. “If we go back to that time, everything would be crazy”, she said.
In addition, Irish horse owners now often carry horses across England to enter the European continent, avoiding long distances at sea to go directly from Ireland to Europe. Harrington feared Brexit would hinder the trans-British route while the horses could not stand being locked up for too long on the move. “Nobody has a plan (to respond)”, she said.