Some thoughts on ‘Brexit’ for the horse community

Yes I know it’s been a while! Getting my thesis to the point of submission has been all consuming, plus the worst flu I have ever had knocked out most of March.  However on the theme of the impending referendum I haven’t seen very much on what effect either result would have for those of us who work with, write about or own horses. I thought I would pen some musings for what they’re worth.eu horse

In the course of my research I discovered that the British Horse Industry Confederation (BHIC) published a report which amongst other things stated that in 2008 the annual turnover of the whole industry was over £7 billion. This was an estimate as many figures relating to leisure and sport horses are. It is not even possible to know with any certainty how many horses there are in any European country, research up to now has standard deviations in the region of 60% (!).  This BHIC figure of £7 billion though is about the same size as farming in the United Kingdom and there are 70,000 jobs dependent on it.

The same survey estimated that there are 1m horses in these islands which are the responsibility of about 0.5m people.  About 4.3m people are classified as riders in the UK with just under 50% riding on a monthly basis.  In terms of participation (as opposed to spectator numbers) that is a greater number than those regularly partaking in fishing, cricket and even rugby.

Deloitte accountants alsHorse passporto did some work on behalf of Ladbrokes in 2010 on the gambling industry. The whole sector employs around 100,000 people in this country and that it contributes £6 billion to the economy. The relevance for us is that every year 15% of horseracing’s income is derived from this industry.

These figures are not be sniffed at but one thing I have noticed is that the horse industry is particularly bad at throwing its weight around. With those numbers politicians should be alive to what concerns horse people, many of us are or shortly will be of voting age.  We should be more vocal, even more radical and we definitely should be using our votes, each and every time there is an opportunity. Voter apathy is what will leave horse related issues ignored not active opposition.

So what if we leave the EU or stay in? I wouldn’t seek to sway the blogosphere either way but I would say this.  The arguments from the ‘Leave’ and ‘Stay’ camps are staggeringly poor.  So far all the breathless brexiters can come up with is some sort of call to return to a golden era prior to our membership when apparently we managed our own affairs without interference and perfectly competently.  Presumably the same golden times that produced the economic criteria that lead to our joining the EU in the first place.  There is also a deliberate attempt to confuse the EU with the European human rights apparatus which actually is a completely separate organisation which we wouldn’t be leaving in the same breath anyway.  That seems to be all they have.

In turn the europhiles don’t appear to be able to do more than scare us with talk of migrant camps in Kent instead of Calais and dire warnings about major manufacturers and employers pulling out of the UK if we leave.  There are no concrete figures and no clear indication of how the nation would ever really settle as part of the EU post a winning ‘stay’ vote given the amount of ardent eurosceptics there are in seemingly every walk of life.  How are we ever going to be other than the ‘grumpy grandad at the wedding’ in future dealings with the EU with so many ‘antis’ at home, stoked up by a right wing press and represented by politicians in Brussels whose avowed intention is to wreck the EU?

One thing is for sure neither path is going to be easy.  An exit would be painful and new trade deals will take years to negotiate and may or may not be more to our liking than the current subservient relationships the Swiss, Icelanders and Norwegians have to put up with.  Staying in means years more tension in Brussels and Strasbourg between us and our trading partners.  One other thing is for sure, this is all going to affect the horse industry and associated sectors just as much as it does everyone else.  The only answer is listen to what they all have to say with due skepticism, do your own homework, talk it over with friends and family and cast a vote.  Ignore the whole process and…well…you’ll have to put with whatever happens without complaint….won’t you?

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About Jonathan Glen Merritt

Senior Lecturer in Law and Criminology, Deputy Head of Research and a member of the Sports Law Unit at Leicester De Montfort University School of Law, UK. PhD due for completion 2016 with a thesis concentrating on the field of governance and disciplinary structures in equine sports. Also competing as an owner and rider with British Dressage. Obviously all views expressed are author's alone except where a guest author has contributed.
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