The 2019 Grand Nation could be less competitive with an absence of Irish jockeys if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, horseracing authorities have warned.
The annual event at Aintree will be one of the the first major sporting events to take place on British soil after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March, and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has voiced fears it could be negatively impacted if the British government does not come to some form of agreement on terms with the EU.
Currently, a tripartite deal between the UK, Ireland, and France allows for the free movement of horses between the three countries. Thoroughbred horses are transported between each country around 26,000 times per year, and the implementation of border controls could have a major effect on the industry. The BHA has stressed the easy movement of horses is not just an “economic” issue, where the lack of Irish jockeys could mean many horseracing fans would lose their Grand National favourites, but also a matter of animal welfare.
The BHA’s Ross Hamilton told BBC Radio 5 Live: “If the position was that the UK government chose to immediately put up borders and tariffs, then it would make it extremely difficult for thoroughbreds to move.
“It would be only a month ahead of the Grand National in 2019, which would be quite an impact – a threat to potentially Irish horses participating in that race, Irish jockeys being able to compete in our races over here if it was a really hard no-deal Brexit.”
Despite Liam Fox recently saying the chance of a no-deal Brexit was now as high as 60 percent, the BHA said its discussions with Whitehall had given it hope a limited agreement about horse transportation could be struck before March 2019 if the European Commission could be persuaded to agree to continuing the current system without EU oversight.
A government spokesperson said Westminster was “working with Ireland and France on developing new arrangements for after we leave the EU” and that their “priority is for the movement of horses to continue with minimal delay and bureaucracy, whilst safeguarding welfare, biosecurity and disease control.”
The questions about Brexit’s impact on the future of horseracing in the UK follows a series of revelations from the government in recent weeks about what would happen to various UK industries, including farming and healthcare, in a no-deal scenario – as part of the government’s leaked Operation Yellowhammer.