Thoroughbred Industries Brexit Steering Group Statement: Free Trade Agreement welcome, short-term disruption still likely 

24 Dec 2020 BHA Features Financial/Political

British horseracing’s Thoroughbred Industries Brexit Steering Group welcomes the news that the UK Government and the European Union have reached an agreement in principle on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

As the British and European Thoroughbred industries are highly integrated, it is a positive step that an agreement has been reached. We look forward to future trade and upholding horse welfare with our European partners.

As the transition period ends there will still be some significant change to the movement of horses from 1 January and some disruption as new arrangements come in to place. We can confirm that the EU has recognised the General Stud Book. This allows racing and breeding stock to be treated as “registered” horses from 1 January, which is positive news.

Third country animal disease listing has also been granted. This defines the UK’s overarching status relating to animal health and will allow animal movement to and from the EU.

These confirmations recognise the high health, identification, and traceability standards the Stud Book and other industry measures help to facilitate and will mean there are fewer isolation, residency, and health requirements for thoroughbreds.

We also welcome the news of UK and Irish mutual recognition of training for competence to transport animals but recognise that some time is needed after 1 January for transporters to obtain authorisations for their people, business and vehicles to allow these GB transporters to move within the EU.

Therefore it remains the advice of the group not to try and move horses for at least the first two weeks of January unless absolutely necessary. This will allow time for agreements to be ratified and the new processes to be communicated to relevant officials here and in the EU. Industry members are advised to engage the services of a shipping agent, transporter and/or customs agent. Further specific advice has also been received today from the UK government relating to certain ports (see below).

The Steering Group has previously issued guidance on the likely new arrangements from 1 January. Although this industry guidance remains subject to change, participants are still urged to familiarise themselves with this information, and with the information available from the UK Government.

The easiest way to do this is via the Brexit webpage on britishhorseracing.com, where there are links to the latest government guidance as well as FAQs. This will be updated once we have information from the appropriate authorities.

Additionally, an e-mail address for specific queries on Brexit has been set up to assist as we approach the end of the transition period via brexit@weatherbys.co.uk.

Julian Richmond Watson, Chair of the Thoroughbred Industries Brexit Steering Group, said:

“News of a free trade agreement being reached is very welcome to the British horseracing industry, which trades extensively with our European partners. It remains important for our participants to have clarity on the fine detail of moving horses and people from 1 January 2021. We would ask our industry to be patient whilst the detail is worked through.

“The news that the General Stud Book will be recognised by the EU and that the UK has been listed as a third country is also positive, but there are some important matters on which we are still waiting for confirmation. We hope that an FTA being signed will increase the chances of swift resolution to these outstanding issues. With little time between now 1 January, a period of disruption is likely.

“Even though we now have an agreement in principle between the UK and EU we want to ensure participants are aware that the process of moving horses will change significantly from the end of the transition period. It will be more complex administratively and is likely to be more expensive. As such, we would ask participants to ensure they are as up to date as possible with the latest industry and government guidance and seek the assistance of a horse transport professional if they are planning to move horses.

“We will, of course, continue to ask Government and other relevant parties for clarity and communicate any information as soon as we are able to.”

Welcoming the recognition of the General Stud Book, Weatherbys CEO Russell Ferris said:

“Whilst there are still many matters to resolve as we move towards Brexit, we are naturally delighted that the Weatherbys General Stud Book will continue to be recognised by the EU from the 1st January 2021.

“The need for mutual recognition of a common, high-health status for thoroughbreds and its Stud Books is of vital importance for the International Thoroughbred industry.

“The Stud Book listing recognises the high biosecurity and animal health standards of the British Thoroughbred and whilst unregistered horses are still able to travel, there would have been many more additional steps required than for registered horses, which would have added unnecessary costs and operational issues.”

In addition to working towards the end of the transition period on 1 January, the British racing and breeding industries continue to work with relevant parties in advance of the new EU Animal Health Law, which is currently due to be implemented on 21 April 2021. The UK has one of six seats on the EU Task Force for Brexit and the Animal Health Law which works with the EU Commission (DG Sante), EU government agencies, Chief Veterinary Officers, and stakeholders to negotiate further changes to horse movement to minimise disruption, both from 1 January 2021 and 21 April 2021.

Further information

Specific information regarding movement of equines from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural affairs (Defra):

“In the interest of protecting animal welfare, and with the possibility of traffic disruption in Kent after 1st January 2021, Defra would strongly advise equine transporters to consider using vehicles with a combined weight of less than 7.5 tonnes, enabling them to proceed to the Short Straits using the Operation Brock contraflow between J8-9 of the M20.

“If you are transporting equines in a vehicle with a combined weight above 7.5 tonnes and there is traffic disruption in Kent, Defra strongly advises against travel and if you do choose to travel you plan your journey carefully, in anticipation of the possibility of delays. These vehicles will not be prioritised to use the Operation Brock contraflow. The animal welfare of equines in transit should be a priority for all equine movements. Make sure that you have the correct authorisations and certifications to transport live animals, find out more here.”