How will Brexit affect the movement of horses?

In the second in our series of blogs about Brexit’s impact on the equine sector, Zoe White updates us on the process of exiting the EU, and explores whether Brexit is going make trade, the movement of horses and the movement of people more difficult for those working in the sector.


Is Brexit set to saddle the equine industry with bureaucracy?

Since our last blog on 3rd February, we've come closer to triggering Article 50 and formally embarking on the process of leaving the European Union. The Brexit Bill had a smooth passage through its remaining stages in the House of Commons, with the final vote being in resounding favour of the Government’s Bill (494 votes to 122), with no amendments being made.

So what’s next? The Bill has now gone to the House of Lords where it will go through exactly the same process as it has in the Commons. While some believe that the overwhelming support from MPs will make it harder for the Lords to amend the Bill, others (including the Brexit Minister David Davis) expects the Lords to amend the Bill. The latter situation would mean that ‘parliamentary ping pong’ would ensue - the Bill will get batted back and forth between the two chambers as they try to agree on the final version of the Bill. If this happens, Theresa May’s target of triggering Article 50 by 9th March might be a bit tight.

So while politicians have the unenviable task of scrutinising the legislation, let’s explore some of the ways horse owners and business could be affected. 

How will trade be affected?

Leaving the Single Market (which, while not yet formally agreed with the EU, is a very strongly possibility), and potential leaving the EU’s Customs Union, means the UK’s trading relationships are most likely to be conducted under default tariffs of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – this is instead of the tariff-free arrangement within the Single Market.

The WTO tariffs could be adjusted in line with respective country’s trade levels and can apply to horses and equine-derived products, as well as feed and other equine related products.

The good news issue that there are no WTO tariffs on ‘pure-bred breeding animals’, so for these horses, tariffs should not be an issue. However, for geldings or crossbreds, it's possible that the standard WTO tariff of up to 11.5% will apply, as will other rates to equine-derived products, feed and other equine-related products.

How will Brexit affect the movement of horses?

Currently, there is a tripartite agreement between the UK, Ireland and France, which means that thoroughbred horses can travel freely between the three countries so long as they have an EU passport and are on a livestock database. But the UK’s exit from the EU raises doubts over the future of this system. This issue was debated in an article in the Guardian last week.

The British Horseracing Authority argues that the tripartite agreement should remain in place post-Brexit because the agreement actually pre-dates the European Union. While this would be the more favorable option, we can’t ignore that looming threat that the UK is excluded from this agreement in the wake of Brexit and be forced to adhere to a number of unnecessary layers of bureaucracy. This will include having to show veterinary health certification and customs documentation each time a horse travels between the UK, France and Ireland – this will cost owners and trainers both money and time.

How will Brexit affect the movement of people? 

It’s not just the movement of horses we need to think about, but also the movement of people, and there are two key considerations for the equine sector related to this.


  1. The UK’s equestrian workforce includes a number of EU citizens, many of them will be concerned about what Brexit means for them. 84% of EU nationals needn’t worry as by the time we leave the EU, they would have been here for the required 5 years, or have a parent who has the right to stay, or have children here.

    For the remaining EU citizens, however, the future is less certain. Despite calls for all EU citizens currently living in the UK to have their right to stay guaranteed, the Government has still not confirmed if this will be the case. MPs even rejected an amendment to this affect last week. It now appears that, unless the Lords manage to table an amendment to the Bill, which would then have to be agreed by the Commons, we will have to wait until after the Prime Minister’s lengthy negotiations with the EU to find out for sure.
  2. The other consideration is how easy or difficult it will be for both UK citizens and EU citizens to move between the UK and EU countries – a particularly important point for the racing industry whose workforce regularly travel abroad for races. There have been reports that UK citizens might have to apply and pay for a visa, which will make the process of travelling to races more complicated. Again, the effectiveness of Theresa May’s negotiations will be the lynchpin deciding whether such a system is actually implemented, or if, in an ideal scenario, we are still entitled to free movement. 

Until Next Time…

Parliament has been in recess this week, returning to London on Monday. This is when the second reading of the Brexit Bill is due to begin in the House of Lords. In the next blog, we’ll update you on these developments and explore the issues of equine identification, health and breeding legislation, equine welfare and the Common Agricultural Policy.