‘Agriculture must not be bargaining chip’

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Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has warned that agri-food must not be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations.

Mr Nicholson, pictured, speaking after a discussion with John Clarke, lead EU agriculture negotiator on the talks with the Mercosur bloc of South American countries, also expressed concern that the ongoing Brazilian meat scandal risks are being “swept under the carpet”.

“After this week’s meeting, it was clear that the Mercosur trade talks are moving forward at a fast pace. I put it to Mr Clarke that this deal has the potential to destroy the beef and poultry sectors,” said Mr Nicholson.

“There is also the question of the ongoing Brazilian meat scandal, which I fear some are trying to sweep under the carpet. I put it to Mr Clarke that consumers across the EU are already worried about the risk of substandard meat from Brazil reaching our supermarket shelves.

“Locally, I have written to DAERA permanent secretary Noel Lavery to ask whether the department can outline exactly how much Brazilian beef has been imported into Northern Ireland over the past six months.

“I found the discussion on this trade deal very worrying to put it mildly, and we also must be vigilant when the UK Government starts negotiating its own trade deals with Mercosur when we leave the European Union.

“Whether at EU or UK level, agriculture must not be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations,” the MEP added.