Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has stressed that agriculture must not be used as a bargaining chip as the UK seeks to strike new trade agreements post-Brexit.
Mr Nicholson made the call during a debate in the European Parliament this week on CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) - the name given to the trade agreement between the EU and Canada.
CETA negotiations were launched in 2009, MEPs ratified the deal this week meaning it can begin to be provisionally implemented. Certain aspects of CETA will only come into force following approval by national parliaments.
Commenting after the debate in Strasbourg Mr Nicholson said: “CETA has been many years in the making and now we are at the final stage. There are many historical ties between Northern Ireland and Canada and we have significant economic ties today, for example Canadian company Bombardier has operations in Northern Ireland. I hope that while we are still in the EU, CETA can help to deepen these ties further.
“We all know that no free trade deal is perfect and while CETA comes with many positives across various sectors we must also work to ensure that it does not have a negative impact on sensitive sectors of our economy once it is implemented.
“When the United Kingdom eventually leaves the European Union and embarks on its own trade policy, I hope that it takes a balanced approach and that the socio-economic significance of UK food and farming is reflected in negotiations. There are some politicians, including members of the Government, who appear to think that new deals can be agreed quickly - I do worry that rushed deals could pose a danger to sensitive sectors, particularly agriculture. Rushed deals can often be bad deals.
“Throughout discussions between the EU and Canada, the US and the Mercosur bloc of South American countries I have repeatedly made the point that the EU must not use agriculture as a bargaining chip. I will continue to make that case as the United Kingdom develops its own new bilateral trading relationships once we have left the EU.”
The Ulster Unionist MEP continued his series of Brexit related meetings this week, holding discussions with David Jones MP, Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU). Mr Nicholson said that the meeting on the up-coming Brexit negotiations was a useful opportunity to brief the Minister on Northern Ireland specific issues.