Ulster Unionist MEP, Jim Nicholson, has called for a deep and comprehensive agreement with the European Union as “historic” Brexit talks formally begin in Brussels.
Mr Nicholson also warned against the creation of any internal UK borders, and pledged to continue close work with the Government and EU leaders.
Jim Nicholson MEP said:
“Today is an historic day for the United Kingdom and the European Union as negotiations on our departure from the EU begin in Brussels.
“I am firmly of the belief that a good deal is in the best interests of all parties involved. Ultimately, we need to reach a deep and comprehensive agreement, with as few barriers to trade as possible, and continued free movement between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
“No-one is in any doubt that finding a solution to the border issue will be difficult, and will require creative thinking. It is, however, an important first principle that all parties involved do not want to see a ‘hard border’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
“The creation of any internal UK borders must also be rejected. The Belfast Agreement affirms that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom, and will remain so for as long as its people wish. Any barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain would be detrimental to the local economy - as GB is, by a huge margin, our largest single market for sales.
“This is only the beginning of negotiations, which will likely accelerate after the German elections in the autumn. However, I am glad that we now have both sides sitting at the table, and hopefully an end to the megaphone diplomacy across the English Channel we have witnessed in recent months.“As things progress, it is vital that we engage with all involved in Westminster and Brussels. As MEP for Northern Ireland, I will continue to work with the Government and senior EU figures to secure the best possible deal for Northern Ireland and the entire United Kingdom.”