Horse racing is big business. The sport generates £3.39 billion in total expenditure for the UK economy, but as with a variety of other sectors of the UK economy, racing has been excluded from the current Brexit deal and the new regulatory and border checks are causing significant upheaval in the industry.
The Majority of Europe’s racing industry is contained within the UK, Ireland, and France. When all three nations were part of the same trading bloc, it was easy to find a common framework to ease the frictions in trade, but with the UK now a third country to the EU cross-border trade has become increasingly difficult.
The Tripartite Agreement
Since the 1960s, a Tripartite Agreement between the United Kingdom, France and Ireland has allowed thoroughbreds to be transported freely between the three signatory nations with no veterinary controls or any additional documentation beyond their equine passport required. Only the arrival and departure dates are required to be tracked and according to Weatherbys more than 20,000 animals were transported between the nations each year under the deal.
However, the Tripartite Agreement was transferred into EU law in 2009, now the UK is no longer part of the EU the deal is no longer in effect. The collapse of the deal led to the Thoroughbred Industries Brexit Steering Group recommending trainers avoid transporting horses to or from the continent in January, and the situation remains in flux.
Michael Gove, the pro-Brexit environment secretary, stated that the rules of the Tripartite Agreement must continue after Brexit to protect the industry, but the Boris Johnson’s government failed to include any such provisions in the wafer-then free trade agreement it agreed with the EU.
The Director of Development for Arqana, a racehorse auction company based in Deauville, noted: “If the horses have to wait hours at the border in the dodger or the freezing cold while they are checked, it will no longer be possible to move them. You can feel the British and Irish buyers extremely cautious.”
The test at Cheltenham
The Cheltenham Horse Racing Championship is one of the most important in the British racing calendar. It brings together more than 250,000 enthusiasts for four days of festivities, with some of the world’s leading trainers and jockeys competing in 28 races throughout the period.
However, Brexit and new Covid-19 restrictions have created a difficult situation for many of those involved in the sport this year. Significantly, around 200 of the horses competing in the festival are from Ireland, and without any agreement to ease the transport of the animals as they cross the borders and difficulties around the UK’s VAT regime, many have complained of the reams of additional paperwork and delays.
Nonetheless, the 2021 Cheltenham Festival will go-ahead as planned with a full selection of horses from Ireland and elsewhere. And bookmakers are already registering a significant number of bets, with the Day 1 Cheltenham Festival tips by GG.co.uk highlighting the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at 13:30 GMT on 16 March.
For those looking forward to the big races of the event, Racing Tips’ picks for this years’ Cheltenham Festival include Chacun Pour Soi in the Champion Chase at 15:05 on day two, Beacon Edge in the Stayers’ Hurdle at 15:05 on day three, and A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup at 15.05 on day four