Are we soon to become a “third country”? It doesn’t sound good, but with the increased political bedlam since Theresa May’s Brexit deal defeat, one suspects that the tempo of the preparations for the “no deal” option has moved up a beat.
A document published by Defra before Christmas assured the horse world that it will be prepared for the “no deal” scenario if and when the time comes, which ostensibly is 29 March. This means the application form for third country status — a country not an EU member so not aligned with its rules — is probably being filled in right now.
Most horse owners won’t notice a difference, but those with sport or breeding plans for horses that involve travel out of the country soon will, as Britain becomes subject to third country rules. The situation may get worse before it gets better as it may take time to be accepted as a third country — although Defra hopes the EU will become accepted as a third country on the day of departure. In order to travel from the UK, a horse will first need appropriate and correct identification and health documents. And the EU will impose additional requirements of third countries, meaning additional health certification tests will be involved.
Yet more paperwork
If anyone needed yet another reason to fully register their horses with a studbook — and that means with a verified DNA-tested pedigree — then leaving the EU has yet another surprise for horses without studbook passports. According to Defra, once we’re out of the EU, any horse without a recognised studbook-issued passport will need a new government-issued identification document — and, yes, there will be more cost involved. So it makes sense to register with a British studbook and fork out the £60 for the DNA test in the first place.
Once on board and travelling, drivers will have to be prepared for rather more enthusiastic border checks than have been previously applied.
Making sure the paperwork is correct before any travel will be imperative. Not only will plans have to be made well in advance of departure dates — no last-minute horse swaps, for example — there are clearly going to be some hefty costs.
And who is going to pay these? The owners, of course, putting more strain on the already stretched purses of those owning competition horses. Will owners start to think twice about wanting their horses to compete abroad on any sort of regular basis —showjumpers who frequently travel the European circuit are the ones most likely to be affected. Might more British showjumpers relocate to mainland Europe?
Perhaps there may be a positive effect on British breeding; after all, any horses — mares and young stallions, for example — travelling for training or breeding are seriously going to have to be worth it. Might it pay to stay home and use home-grown studs, trainers and resources?
Clearly no one knows how the final act of “Brexit the pantomime” is going to ultimately play out. But the advice for anyone thinking they might have to travel a horse out of the UK after 29 March is, “Be prepared”. Check the existing paperwork and start making enquiries about what else might be needed now.
Ref Horse & Hound; 24 January 2019