Ireland’s €700m sports horse industry must "future-proof" itself against the impact of Brexit, a leading academic has warned.
Professor Alan Fahey said the export-reliant industry would be left significantly exposed if tariffs were applied to the sale of horses to the UK market.
The University College Dublin (UCD) academic joined a range of other experts at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) on the eve of the Dublin Horse Show to discuss the consequences of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
Different from the thoroughbred racing stock industry, sport horses are bred for events such as show jumping, dressage and eventing.
The UK is the Irish industry’s largest export market.
Prof Fahey, who works at UCD’s School of Agriculture and Food Science and has been involved in a series of economic reports evaluating the Irish sport horse industry, said: "Similar to the thoroughbred market, Ireland has an international reputation for producing quality pedigree sport horses, one that has been built up through the generations.
"As shown in recent economic reports, including the most up-to-date work that has yet to be published, the sport horse industry has the potential to further increase its economic value beyond the current 700 million euro it contributes.
"The industry is however exposed as any to the consequences of Brexit and we need to begin future-proofing ourselves for a number of potential outcomes, including tariffs on the export to Britain of Irish sport horses."
The forum at the RDS heard that a tripartite agreement between the respective departments of agriculture of Ireland, the UK and France, that has effectively allowed free movement of horses between all three countries, is potentially at risk due to Brexit.
David Carson, partner and Brexit lead at Deloitte, told the event: "All industries need to be proactive in engaging with the consequences of Brexit.
"While uncertainty remains about the final outcome of Britain leaving the EU, companies and industries cannot afford to procrastinate because of this."
He added: "The sport horse industry has enjoyed free movement of horses between Ireland and Britain since the 1970s, but the implementation of Brexit may require change to this.
"The sport horse industry is made up of a wealth of interdependent SMEs who are ingrained in rural Ireland, but they need to engage collectively with this pressing issue."
Michael Duffy, chief executive of the RDS, said: "The Dublin Horse Show is the largest gathering of the Irish sport horse community each year, so it’s an ideal opportunity to discuss a matter that will affect the industry.
"As it is an industry that has strong cross-border commercial and social activity, and has Britain as its largest market, there are many ramifications arising from the Brexit decision."
The EU is to meet in October to decide whether sufficient progress had been made in the first phase of exit talks to allow the negotiations to proceed to the next phase.