William Funnell: ‘This is a disaster for our industry’ *H&H Plus*


  • William Funnell reflects on the impact of Brexit and Covid on the sport

    Many British riders, myself included, should have been heading to one of the many tours in Europe by now. But, of course, things are very different this year and we’ve been waiting it out at home, weighing up not only how Covid is affecting everything, but the impact Brexit has had, too.

    The main knock-on from Brexit has been the extensive paperwork, not to mention cost, involved in transporting horses across the Channel since 1 January. The forms we had just over a month ago that certified us able to drive in Europe are no longer valid.

    Among the many new requirements for anyone other than private individuals are an operator’s licence, a certificate of professional competence for the driver, and an inspection to say the lorry is fit to carry horses for more than eight hours. To do this you have to take your empty lorry into Europe, so to southern Ireland, France or Belgium for example, to get it inspected and collect the paperwork. Only then will you be allowed to carry livestock out of the country.

    Such is the ridiculousness of the situation, and with the start of the Sunshine Tour looming, that to avoid this extra journey to Europe to get the paperwork done I had to book John Parker International to travel my horses across to the Calais stables.

    We’ll then take our empty lorries over to Calais to get the paperwork done, so we can pick up our horses and carry on down to Spain.

    On top of this you need a carnet, a Coggins test (for equine infectious anaemia, a disease which hasn’t existed in the UK for nearly a decade) and each horse’s health papers now run to 32 pages with the vet having to sign every single page.

    I’m taking 16 horses to Spain, so you can just imagine how time-consuming and how costly that’s been…

    Rising costs

    The cost of crossing the Channel has risen considerably, too, with the ferry costing around £75 more per horse while the train has risen by more than £300 per horse, so that’s not even an option any more.

    Even if we do eventually get across the Channel to compete, will the venues be shut down as soon as we get there? There are very few ights, so will we be able to travel home at any point? Then of course you need to have had a negative Covid test before you arrive.

    Is there a solution? Scott Brash is one of the many showjumpers to have postponed his plans, and his owner Lord Harris is even discussing the situation with senior cabinet ministers.

    I had hoped it would all have been sorted before we went to the Sunshine Tour, which is why I’ve waited until now, but it’s still as clear as mud. If people like Scott are forced to move their stables to Europe, it would be a disaster for our industry.

    I actually voted leave during the referendum but in hindsight, if I’d realised the full rigamarole it would cause, I certainly would have thought twice.

    All in all, I worked out it’s costing me an extra £300-plus to take each horse over the Channel now. I’m going to have to win a lot of classes to pay for it all…

    Ref: 4 February 2021

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