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Brexit's Effect on Horse Racing

It's the scenario that industries fear: Rising tariffs, limited mobility and costly checks at the border. These are just some of the things that would happen if regulations were enforced post-Brexit. But what about how niche industries might be affected such as horse racing?

This is all part of a growing headache for countries that trade primarily on the revenue of horse racing. However, no country is set to suffer more than Ireland, a country that makes an estimated $2.5 billion from the sport.

Known as 'The Sport of Kings', the confusion and ambiguity that surrounds the Brexit deal have caused many racing industry analysts to grow increasingly worried about the consequences of a 'no deal.'

It all goes back to an agreement predating the European Union called the Tripartite Agreement, which vouched for the free movement and access of thousands of horses every year between the U.K., Ireland and France. If that were to stop, the new regulations would cause massive headaches for all three countries. Not only would the 29,000 jobs that the Irish horse racing industry supports be in jeopardy but also analysts predict that it could go from no tariffs to the standard World Trade Organization tariff of up to 13.5 percent.

Now if a horse is highly prized, then it is issued with a unique passport and is integrated into a livestock database, ensuring smooth travel and identification. If upheld, then it would bring in welfare and health issues for horses, and some of the horses would need to wait for hours for transport, inspections/quarantine or even experience travel complications. For example, in Germany or Italy, you have to have a certificate from a vet saying they have seen the animal in the last 48 hours and it is fit to travel.

With 50 thoroughbred horses per 10,000 people in Ireland, the Emerald Isle is quite passionate about the sport. In fact, 9 out of 10 horses that race in Northern Ireland is trained in the Irish Republic. One in five of the top 100 rated flat horses in 2016 were Irish-bred, making it the most successful breeding nation, according to Deloitte. Furthermore, Irish horses are high in demand in many parts of Europe, with top horses being exported to 36 different countries in 2016.

Although 70 percent of horses raced in the U.K. were bred in Ireland or France, about 15 percent of Irish horse exports went to the U.K. for ownership. People like famed Irish trainer John Magnier's Coolmore cut his fees by as much as 43 percent in the wake of Brexit and the declining pound, which serves as a forewarning should future fault lines develop against weak currencies. And the U.K. would suffer immeasurably as well; horse racing is the second largest sport in revenue and attendances, and so would need the backing of policymakers amongst the U.K. government.

Many people enjoy placing a bet on a horse in the U.K. but they don't see the amount of work that goes into the industry and the politics behind it. The lucrative horse racing market as part of the betting market brings in an estimated 4.5 billion British pounds to the U.K.

Thus, horse racing is a financial cornerstone of both the U.K. and the Irish economy. Many racing experts and professionals in both the U.K. and Ireland see the market as one, not divided, and they don't necessarily want any political interference to come between them. But Brexit might force some conversations between the two countries.

With deals being done now around Brexit, industries on both sides of the border are observing what happens. There could be some harmful ramifications if a soft exit isn't agreed on. Furthermore, politicians have to remember that the livelihood of thousands of people, as well as horses, is staked on it.