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Constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom must be protected – Nicholson

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has called on the Government to prioritise close trade with the European Union and the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom in Brexit negotiations.

Mr Nicholson was commenting today as the Prime Minister triggers Article 50 to begin formal negotiations on the UK’s departure from the EU.

Jim Nicholson MEP said:

“In June, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. If democracy is to mean anything, that vote has to be accepted, respected and implemented. Now the Government is beginning the formal process for Brexit negotiations, with Theresa May triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

“This is of course only the end of the beginning, and it is vital that we engage as much as possible both with Westminster and Brussels in ensuring that we get the best deal possible. I firmly believe that a bad deal for either side would ultimately be a bad deal for both sides.

“If we end up with ‘no deal’ that would be the worst possible outcome for everyone. Trading on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules would mean significant tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade. For our agri-food and manufacturing sectors, this could be catastrophic.

“As it stands, the default tariffs of agricultural products into the EU are huge. For instance, WTO tariffs on UK exports would equate to 47% on milk, 40% on cheese and 40% on lamb. Crucially, the impact of non-tariff barriers including regulation, rules of origin or quotas can actually be more restrictive for trade than tariffs themselves. Given that a large proportion of our local produce is exported, and the cross-border nature of supply chains, it is vital that access to EU agricultural markets can still continue.

“The Government must also maintain a strong position regarding the constitutional integrity of the UK. We entered the European Union as one United Kingdom, and we will leave as one United Kingdom. Any measures that seek to diminish the Union, whether through internal UK borders, or by Nicola Sturgeon making yet another demand for a second referendum in Scotland - must be firmly rejected.

“For my part, I will continue my series of conversations with European leaders to ensure that we get the best possible deal for Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”

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