Horse breeders are evading expensive fees and onerous paperwork by transporting high-value mares via Northern Ireland in a Brexit loophole, the Telegraph can reveal.
Under current Brexit rules, horse owners have to pay a VAT of 20 per cent for the value of each individual horse while transporting them directly from The Republic of Ireland into Great Britain. Although the VAT can be claimed back when the mare returns after breeding, the outlay can run into thousands of pounds.
Vets, hired by transport companies, have to fill in up to 20 pages of health documents for every horse transported between Holyhead in Wales and Dublin port which can also involve increased fees.
The sheer amount of documentation required means some horses are left standing in boxes for up to eight hours a day and are at risk from dehydration and travel sickness, horse welfare charities have warned.
In a bid to avoid such extensive paperwork and fees, some transport companies are instead delivering horses in 500-mile-round trips from Ireland into England via Belfast.
Horses are driven from Dublin into Belfast and then ferried over to Cairnryan in south west Scotland before being taken down to popular horse sites in England such as Newmarket.
In this route owners are not required to pay VAT and the health checks and paperwork are far less stringent on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Prize mares, whose value can range into the hundreds of thousands of pounds, are predominantly being transported in this” backdoor” route, the Racehorse Transporter’s Association (RTA) has said.
This figure is likely to rise during the course of the breeding season from now until the end of June, the organisation added.
Merrick Francis, chairman of the RTA, explained the decision taken by such companies: “The irony of this paperwork and all these checks and everything else is the fact that it is not in the interest of the horses because they are having to stand on the box for longer while the veterinary checks go on.”