HOPES are high that it will soon become easier for British breeders to send mares to be covered by Irish stallions.

Since Britain left the European Union, British breeders have had to pay a temporary VAT bond when sending mares to Ireland for covering. The bond is refundable once the mare returns to Britain but the paperwork and time involved has discouraged British breeders from sending mares abroad.

Irish breeders faced the same red tape when sending mares to be covered by British stallions but recently the British authorities removed the requirement and now treat cross-channel broodmare traffic in the same way as they do Irish racehorses travelling to Britain for a race.

Research conducted by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association indicated that the number of British mares visiting top-end Irish stallions fell by 27% between 2020 and 2021, and dropped further this year.

This week Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Martin Heydon TD, wrote to the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohue, on the matter.

Minister Heydon wrote: “Since Brexit, the introduction of a temporary VAT bond has had a negative impact on volume of mares travelling to Ireland from the UK for breeding. I have raised this issue on a number of occasions over the past year. It was very positive to secure an amendment from the European Commission on the guidelines around the importation of horses for racing which allowed for an exemption from the security bond.

“A similar exemption for mares imported for breeding would make sense. Asking breeders to set aside a significant sum of cashflow to cover these bonds is extremely prohibitive. The recent decision by UK counterparts to grant such an exemption has significantly increased the need to progress discussions in this regard as it places Ireland at a competitive disadvantage.

“I have again outlined the case made by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (ITBA) and others to officials in the Department of Finance. At present, the European Commission is in discussions with the World Customs Organisation about a possible relief from VAT and duty on horses imported for breeding. Hopefully these discussions can be progressed soon. In the meantime, I continue to make the case on the importance of resolving this issue to the benefit of Irish breeders and the rural economy.”

ITBA chief executive Shane O’Dwyer commented: “We would like to thank Minister Heydon. The ITBA has been working for quite some time on this and is pleased with the latest developments. We are confident of a resolution in the coming weeks.”