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Racing looks to new EU law to solve problem of free movement of horses

Brian Kavanagh: 'That's the sort of figure that was predicted, so it's gone well in that respect.”
HRI CEO Brian Kavanagh does not want the benefits of the tripartite agreement to be lostCredit: Patrick McCann (

The latest stage in efforts to ensure free movement of racehorses and bloodstock can continue following Brexit took place this week, with a proposal for what the sport hopes can replace the tripartite agreement between Britain, Ireland and France shared with the European Commission.

It is expected the tripartite agreement, which allows free movement, can continue during the transition period set to follow the UK's departure from the European Union in March.

However, the EU has said it cannot continue indefinitely after Brexit, and racing's leaders would like a new "high health horse" category to replace it.

The aim would be for the category, which would apply to racehorses and other high-level sport horses, to be enshrined in the new EU Animal Health Law due to come into force in 2021.

France Galop chief veterinary officer Paul-Marie Gadot
France Galop chief veterinary officer Paul-Marie GadotCredit: Racing Post / Scott Burton
Paul-Marie Gadot, France Galop's chief veterinary officer, who has been integral to French racing's work on Brexit, attended a meeting of the EC's Animal Health Advisory Committee on Monday to discuss the concept with a representative of the commission.

Gadot said it was too early to gauge the EU's position but added their representative was "very interested and open-minded".

Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh said the tripartite agreement had come into being because of the high standards of sanitary care, health and welfare applied to thoroughbreds.

Without the agreement those standards would fall back to the lowest common denominator applied to all other equines.

Kavanagh added: "We're making the point it will be wrong to lose something as beneficial as that.

"So we're asking the EU, who are drafting new animal health law, to consider the inclusion of a new definition or category of equines in European law that then cascades back to domestic legislation. That's the definition of a 'high health horse' category.

"At the moment there are two definitions of equines, in simple terms horses for slaughter and horses for establishment – essentially horses for recreation. We're saying include a third category."

Kavanagh said it would require countries to meet defined standards in areas like health, sanitation and traceability, although he acknowledged there was a long way to go before it became a reality.

"If countries are willing to meet those standards then that should allow freedom of movement between those countries and what's described as a 'third country'," he added.

"That might not just be Britain, it might be other countries too.

"I think it's also possible that within the EU it could be a standard of horse that might be open to other countries to aspire to and it could also improve the potential for movement of horses between the EU and other third countries, such as the United States or Australia."

Ireland and France are leading the efforts with the EU, and being supported by the UK's racing industry.

Julian Richmond-Watson: warns of serious damage unless agreement is reached
Julian Richmond-Watson: warns of serious damage unless agreement is reachedCredit: Edward Whitaker
Julian Richmond-Watson, who chairs the UK thoroughbred Brexit steering group, said: "Europe's thoroughbred racing and breeding sectors, together with international equestrian sport, agree the EU’s new Animal Health Law, currently being drafted, provides a critical window to ensure continued ease of movement of horses, on the proviso that current high standards of veterinary care, health and welfare are maintained.

"Our industry in Britain fully supports this approach, which is being led by Ireland and France. With some 26,000 thoroughbred movements between France, Ireland and Britain alone last year it's of mutual benefit not only for the EU but more widely for all third countries too, and it protects and promotes trade and movement between us.

"Without it the current systems in place, which have been refined and improved over many years and which underpin breeding and racing not just in this country but in many countries, will be seriously damaged."

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Bill BarberIndustry editor

Published on 5 July 2018inNews

Last updated 18:22, 5 July 2018