Northern Ireland post-Brexit ‘loophole’ sparks equine welfare concerns *H&H Plus*

  • Welfare charities are concerned about a number of reports of people trying to avoid the new regulations and costs by travelling from the EU to Britain via Northern Ireland. H&H finds out more

    A leading charity has voiced animal welfare concerns over a “loophole” that could be adding hours to equine journey times to avoid new post-Brexit regulations.

    The Brexit transition period ended on 31 December and with it came a host of complex new rules, requirements and taxes for those involved in moving horses from the EU and the Republic of Ireland to Britain.

    H&H has reported on the extent of the laborious and costly new hoops buyers, sellers, transporters and those moving horses overseas temporarily (such as for breeding or competition) now face.

    Rumours have been circulating of a loophole, whereby equines from the Republic of Ireland or other EU member states are able to avoid the new regulations in some cases by travelling to Britain via Northern Ireland.

    World Horse Welfare told H&H it has had “a number of concerning reports” to this effect.

    “Our understanding is that this is to avoid increased bureaucracy for equine imports coming from EU member states, such as paperwork and customs requirements, and the additional costs associated with this,” a spokesman for the charity said.

    “This means that a horse moving from the European mainland to southern England could be facing a substantially longer journey if the transporter chooses to take the 18-hour sea journey from Cherbourg to Rosslare before travelling into Northern Ireland and thence into northern GB by ferry before continuing south by road.

    “We are only a month into the new arrangement so teething problems are to be expected. As a sector we are working to raise these concerns with Defra and the devolved administrations and to identify how we can ease movement of equines into Great Britain, whilst encouraging transporters to ensure they are fully compliant with the new requirements.”

    Irish border tensions

    Tensions in Ireland over border constraints in general have also been brewing this week, with ministers and officials working to resolve agitation re-sparked by a row triggered by the EU over movement of Covid vaccines. The Irish sea border is also causing rising tensions over the movement of goods from Britain to Northern Ireland, leading to the withdrawal of physical checks of goods arriving.

    Cabinet office minister Michael Gove wrote to European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič on Tuesday (2 February), stating an “urgent resolution” was required to a number of issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol. These include temporary lighter enforcing of the rules until 2023.

    One of the issues, about which campaigners have also contacted H&H, are the new veterinary requirements for animals moving within the UK itself.

    The Northern Ireland Protocol means health checks and certificates are still required, even if a horse is moving between Britain and Northern Ireland.

    Meanwhile, a lobbying group is pressuring the government to remove certain health-related requirements for dogs travelling between Northern Ireland and Britain. This includes being treated for tapeworm between one and five days prior to travel and campaigners are concerned about the health implications this could have for individual dogs, whose owners frequently travel between Northern Ireland and Britain, as well as the wider issue of antimicrobial resistance.

    In his letter to Mr Šefčovič, Mr Gove called for the European Commission to authorise the Irish government to negotiate a bilateral arrangement “that comprehensively addresses the barriers that are imposed on pet travel between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Ireland”.

    You might also be interested in…