As politicians in Ireland grappled with confidence and controversy this week, MEPs in Strasbourg grappled with their consciences. Members of the European Parliament faced a decision - whether or not to accept an EU trade deal with Canada or to reject it.

By the time the CETA debate got under way in parliament, the Canadian Prime Minister had already visited US President Donald Trump at the White House. The importance of Justin Trudeau's next trip was not lost on MEPs, he arrived in Strasbourg on Thursday.

EU parliamentarians in favour of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement lauded CETA for its potential to increase jobs, to create a level playing field for EU companies seeking to do business in Canada and for the prospect of reducing import and export custom duties.

Opponents said it would undermine standards and regulations on environmental protection, health safety and workers rights. Added to that, Canada secured a quota to export over 50,000 tonnes of beef to the EU - something Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy expressed concerns over regarding Irish farmers.

The current geo-political climate led those advocating CETA to point out that creating new friends and trading partners was a positive move. The common values shared between Europe and Canada were repeatedly highlighted by pro-CETA MEPs this week.

However, concerns over a lack of transparency around the trade agreement - seven years in the making - were also raised during the debate.

In December, the EU parliament's Social Affairs Committee voted to reject the deal on the grounds that it did not do enough to boost job growth and improve working conditions.

Two months on, the agreements fate finally rested on one of the largest parliament groupings, the Socialists and Democrats.

Its leader Gianni Pitella said his group had previously sought changes to the agreement to allay concerns. By Tuesday night it became clear that over 60% of the group was in favour - enough to get the trade deal over the line.

It passed the next day by 408 to 254 votes. Ireland's sole S&D member Nessa Childers stuck to her principles and voted against it.

All of this happened as a wider discussion about the future of the EU took place.

Co-operation with Canada may be secure, but there is little doubt the European Union is in a precarious position.

Justin Trudeau
Justin Trudeau addressed the European Parliament on Thursday

Uncertainty surrounding Brexit is hugely evident in the parliament. As for Grexit - one dare not whisper the word.

The aforementioned uncertainty has the French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen rubbing her hands in glee. Any chink in the EU armour is viewed as an opportunity for her presidential campaign.

She described CETA as a secretive deal and reiterated the merits of autonomy. Controversial, populist, call it what you will, "she's box-office" according to one media colleague in the parliament press room.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that a debate on the future of the European Union resulted in more questions than answers this week. MEPs simply do not know what route the EU will take prior to the Brexit Horse bolting.

There were two suggestions.

One was that the EU should have fiscal capacity and a finance minister, as proposed by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats leader Guy Verhofshtadt.

The second, that a more unified approach should be taken by member states, using the untapped mechanisms of the Lisbon Treaty as proposed by Germany's Elmor Brock of the European People's Party.

A number of MEPs expressed concern over the suggestion of a multi-speed Europe, following the Malta summit of EU leaders. Some would argue that a two-tiered Europe is already in existence and that Brexit could simply facilitate a multi-speed Europe. It highlights the need for Ireland to get its voice heard.

The Vice President of the parliament and Fine Gael member Mairead McGuinness suggested that when it came to Brexit, Irish MEPs needed to increase their work negotiating on the ground in the EU.

Asked if the Taoiseach and current Fine Gael leader was the right person to lead the country in the Brexit talks, Ms McGuinness was resolute on the basis of his experience, particularly in Europe.

Just like the whispers surrounding Grexit, questions over who will lead negotiations on Brexit after Article 50 is triggered in March, are parked until Enda Kenny indicates the timing of his own exit.

Hold on to your hats, European and domestic politics next month will be fascinating.