Urgent questions over post-Brexit international horse transport *H&H Plus*

  • URGENT questions have been raised over the reality of post-Brexit international horse transport as the 1 January deadline looms.

    Crucial ends are still to be tied up as horse owners, riders, businesses and transporters seek to understand which hoops they are required to jump through to move horses from Britain to the EU or Republic of Ireland in seven weeks’ time.

    The National Audit Office’s report on the UK border’s preparedness for the 31 December end of the Brexit transition period, published 6 November, warned there is “likely to be significant disruption at the border from 1 January”.

    The watchdog adds that although Government departments have made progress and a significant amount of money is being spent, time is running out. It states that even if Government makes further progress with its preparations, there is still likely to be significant disruption at the border.

    A Defra webinar on 4 November explained in detail the steps anyone taking horses from Britain to EU member states will need to follow after the end of the transition period. While it answered many queries, questions remain over some logistical points, and UK studbooks – including Weatherbys – are still awaiting EU recognition that would mean horses on their books are considered “registered”.

    This is crucial as there are additional steps and documentation required for “unregistered” horses travelling from the UK to the EU.

    Defra is advising anyone involved in transporting horses from the UK to the EU to “plan any exports on the basis that the UK’s studbooks will not be recognised from 1 January”.

    Only international sport horses that have an FEI wrap on their passport and those registered with the Hurlingham Polo Association are considered “registered”. As the British Horseracing Authority does not manage international competitions, this particular route is not an option for British racehorses.

    Concerns were raised during the Q&A session over additional requirements UK transporters will be required to have when operating in the EU, whether it would be possible for these to be in place by 1 January and if not, whether this would give EU companies a business advantage.

    “Going forward, in order to transport horses into the EU [on a commercial basis], you will be required to hold EU certificates of competence and EU vehicle approval certificates,” said Rachael Brunskill, Defra’s animal welfare during transport policy lead.

    “EU certificates of competence can be applied for in more than one member state, so you should be eligible to do that from now,” she said, adding that vehicle approval certificates cannot be issued until the UK has left, on 1 January.

    She added “there will be no commercial disadvantage to British transporters”.

    “EU transporters will be required to apply to the UK authorities for vehicle approval certificates, certificates of competence and transporter authorisations, including the journey logs, in the same way our transporters will have to apply to the EU, so we are creating a level playing field and not creating an advantage for EU transporters,” she said.

    The webinar was assured that the first border control post (BCP) for registered and unregistered equines entering the EU at Calais “would be ready” in time. Appointments will be required at the Calais BCP, which led to further queries over how much notice is needed, whether appointments are per vehicle or per horse, and whether the border will be open 24 hours a day.

    Owners/transporters were advised to check with Calais in advance.

    The logistics of having an appropriate vet’s signature “on the day of departure” on the necessary paperwork for unregistered horses (for registered horses this can be done the previous working day) was also questioned, with one person querying how that would work for a 3am departure time, for example. Other questions awaiting clarity include queries over export health certificates (EHCs) for horses’ return journeys as well as what will happen if a horse is rejected at a BCP.

    “The immediate answer is it depends on which basis the consignment is rejected,” said Defra equine policy lead Simon Waterfield, adding there are animal welfare considerations involved and he “wouldn’t want people to assume the first intention is to turn them round”.

    “If it is just that the horse doesn’t have the appropriate documentation, we expect the BCP to liaise with importer/exporter to make sure the documentation is obtained and therefore the animals will be allowed to be released and can continue. Turning the animals round is not something that the BCPs will do automatically. If there were a disease risk or something serious, then the chances are they would have to return.”

    For more information, visit the government website.

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