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Brexit threat to Grand National recedes with departure date delay

The Grand National could have been affected by a no deal Brexit
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Prospects of the Randox Health Grand National being affected by a no-deal Brexit appear to have receded after it was agreed that the United Kingdom's date for departing the European Union could be pushed back until at least April 12.

The three-day meeting at Aintree, which culminates in Britain's most famous jumps race on April 6, was the first major racing event due to take place after the original Brexit date of March 29.

It was feared that in the event of no deal being agreed between the UK and the EU there would be major disruption to horse movement, which could cause problems for Irish-trained horses travelling home from Aintree.

With 37 of the 81 horses left in the National being trained in Ireland, including favourite Tiger Roll, the nightmare scenario would have been a severely depleted field.

However, following talks in Brussels on Thursday night, should Theresa May's Brexit deal be passed by parliament then Brexit would happen by May 22.

If, as expected, it fails again then the UK would leave on April 12, unless another extension is agreed enabling the UK to take part in the European elections starting on May 23.

A BHA spokesman said: "Regarding the extension of Article 50, we remain prepared for all scenarios, including no deal, and encourage participants to refer to the Brexit section of the BHA website to find out more about the preparations they can take for all negotiation outcomes.

"It's important any withdrawal deal reflects the priorities of both racing and breeding, and allows free horse movement to continue during a transition period while a long-term arrangement with the EU can be agreed. We remain in contact with both Defra and DCMS on a daily basis on Brexit matters."

Under current arrangements racehorses can travel freely between the UK, Ireland and France under what is known as the Tripartite Agreement.

However, if the UK was to leave the EU without a deal then that agreement would cease to exist and, while the government has said it will not impose barriers to movement, an Irish-trained horse, for example, would face delays and logistical challenges returning home from a racecourse in the UK if the EU failed to reciprocate.

Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh described news of an extension as a "positive development", adding on Friday: "All options still seem on the table and hopefully some consensus or path forward can emerge within the new timeframes agreed between the UK and EU yesterday.

"As I said before, the industry is prepared for all scenarios, with the most difficult obviously being a no deal exit."

The UK has yet to be listed as a 'third country' by the EU, although it is being considered, with a decision expected soon.

Without that listing no horse could move between the EU and UK at all if there was no deal agreed.

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