The UK government announced on Thursday that it has suspended free trade negotiations with Canada due to a lack of progress on key issues.

In a statement, a UK government spokesperson said that the UK is committed to negotiating trade deals that benefit the British people, and that it has the right to pause talks with any country if the negotiations are not moving forward. 

The spokesperson added that the UK is open to resuming talks with Canada in the future.

“We have always said we will only negotiate trade deals that deliver for the British people. And we reserve the right to pause negotiations with any country if progress is not being made. We remain open to restarting talks with Canada in the future to build a stronger trading relationship that benefits businesses and consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.”

The main obstacle in the trade talks is the Canadian dairy sector, which is protected by a system of supply management that limits foreign competition. 

After leaving the European Union, an interim agreement oversaw trade between the two countries allowing for tariff-free exports of British cheese to Canada. That agreement has run its course.

The UK and Canada have been trying to negotiate a new deal to replace the previous one while the UK was still in the EU. However, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed not to give up any more market share of the Canadian dairy industry to foreign exporters, after making concessions in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Dairy Farmers of Canada, a lobby group representing Canadian dairy producers, has also opposed any further opening of the Canadian market to British cheese, saying that it would harm their livelihoods and undermine their industry.

A spokesperson for Mary Ng, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, said that Canada is “disappointed that negotiations with the UK are being paused.” 

“Their decision to continue to maintain market access barriers for our agriculture industry and unwillingness to reach a mutual agreement has only stalled negotiations,” the spokesperson told CBC News.

“We will not negotiate an agreement that is not good for Canadians and not good for our Canadian business, farmers and workers.”