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Racing's focus shifts to April 12 deadline as Brexit uncertainty continues

MPs have again rejected Theresa May's withdrawal agreement
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British racing has shifted its focus to April 12 as the next crucial date in preparing for Brexit as uncertainty continues over the ability to move racehorses between the United Kingdom and European Union after that date.

MPs again rejected prime minister Theresa May's withdrawal agreement on Friday, meaning the UK has missed the EU deadline to delay Brexit to May 22 and leave with a deal.

Now the government has until April 12 to extend negotiations or leave without a deal.

While racehorses from the EU would still be able to enter the UK under a no-deal scenario, if the EU were not to reciprocate it would mean severe delays and logistical difficulties for those horses to return home. British horse transporters are also concerned they will not be able to operate in the EU under no deal.

In addition, the UK has yet to be granted 'third country' status without which no horses could travel between the UK and EU at all. The relevant EU committee is due to vote on the UK's application next week.

Will Lambe: uncertainty remains over moving horses after Brexit

BHA executive director Will Lambe said: "Although parliament has expressed its opposition to 'no deal', this scenario has not been averted, and our principal focus has shifted to April 12 being the next potential date for our departure from the EU.

"Domestically, we believe we have the key plans in place, with current and successful systems being maintained, but there remains uncertainty with regard to horses travelling or returning to the EU from the UK, and we await eagerly the listing of the UK by the EU as a third country with high animal health standards.

"The lack of clarity around the treatment of transporters operating overseas is also proving harmful for planning."

The government has advised companies who transport livestock that they must appoint an agent in an EU country and operate through them if there is no deal.

However, Rupert Erskine Crum of Weyhill International Horse Transport has said that officials in Ireland had said that was not possible when approached.

"If we go out on April 12 without a deal by EU law if I run a lorry into Calais on the 13th they are going to say stop, you can't come in," he said.

Not only would transporters be affected by this but also trainers, as the rules, which are not being reciprocated by the UK, affect any vehicle transporting horses commercially.

Erskine Crum said that should a trainer ask a transporter to take horses to, for instance, the French Classics, they would need to get an Irish, French or German lorry to do the job because only they would be able to enter the UK and then re-enter the EU.  

He added: "Not only does this wipe out a significant part of this company’s business, it will also double the price of the transport because the foreign lorry doing it has to get to the pickup in the first place and then get home after finishing.  

"This turns Chantilly from a £2,000 job into a £4,000 one. I have no doubt owners will be delighted."

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Domestically, we believe we have the key plans in place, but there remains uncertainty with regard to horses travelling or returning to the EU
E.W. Terms