Leading owner Wright says prize-money has taken Brexit hit
Owner-breeder Chris Wright is adamant he can see "no positives for the racing industry" after Britain formally began the process of leaving the European Union.
Two years of exit negotiations will follow Wednesday's activation of Article 50 in a letter signed by Prime Minister Theresa May and handed to EU Council president Donald Tusk.
Speaking to the Racing Post during the Brexit referendum campaign, high-profile entrepreneur Wright laid out his grounds for opposing a move that narrowly found the favour of those who voted.
Repeating his concerns, Wright said: "Immediately after the referendum the value of sterling dropped 15 per cent against the dollar and almost the same against the euro. That means UK prize-money has dropped by the same percentage relative to the rest of the world, making it much less advantageous to run horses in the UK.
"What will happen with the movement of horses across borders? The industry is dependent on their easy movement, but now a lot of red tape and documentation could be required. The practicalities of horse transport could also be very significant with horses queueing up at Dover behind queuing lorries full of rotting fruit and veg
"Trainers and breeders already find it hard to get staff. The reality of where we are now is European staff are leaving and new ones are not coming because the signal has been sent out that they're not welcome. They can also now earn more working in other parts of Europe."
Offering a very different perspective, owner Steven Astaire, who like Wright is a Racehorse Owners Association board member, said: "The only person who spoke sense in the referendum debate was David Cameron's old right-hand man Steve Hilton. He made the point Britain buys one in five German cars, so why would Germany want to screw that market?
"For racing the situation is the same. The French and Irish want to sell us their horses and their economies would suffer if they imposed harsh tariffs. For racing I don't think this'll make any difference."
Wright added: "There are an awful lot of people in racing who wanted out. I find it very difficult talking to people with that mentality.
"The only way I get round it with good friends is by saying Brexit has to be an absolutely rock solid not-to-be discussed topic. You'll never persuade them they're wrong, and they won't persuade me I'm wrong."