Brexit: Top-level talks suspended after positive Covid test

Clay Curtis
November 20, 2020

Any long suspension of talks will make it even tougher for the negotiators to clinch a deal ahead of January 1, when the existing trade agreements between the European Union and Britain expire. He added that talks among lower ranking officials would continue.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "We are discussing with [the Commission] the implications for the negotiations".

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said it could take another two weeks for an agreement to be struck, taking the talks close to the 31 December hard deadline.

The EU and Britain are very close to agreement on most issues as time runs out for a trade deal but they are still at odds over fishing rights, guarantees of fair competition and ways to solve future disputes, an EU official told ambassadors in Brussels.

"We are now in the late stage of the negotiations and there is possibility of accidents in the last six weeks". We have been, and will continue to, act in line with public health guidelines and to ensure the health and welfare our teams'. Barnier tested positive in March and Frost self-isolated that same month after developing coronavirus symptoms.

The Brexit trade talks in Brussels came to an unexpected halt this afternoon after one member of the European negotiating team tested positive for coronavirus.

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Officials have continued to work remotely in order to certify the terms of the trade deal, which would become operational in just six weeks after the United Kingdom leaves the EU's Single Market and Customs Union.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office, meanwhile, again set out the strict conditions.

At a virtual summit of European Union leaders Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo both called on their colleagues to make contingency plans in case talks to sign a trade and security agreement fail, according to two people with knowledge of the discussion. Both sides had hoped to get a trade deal by then to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs and businesses that could suffer if Brexit leads to a sharp end to existing trade relations.

Indeed, Brexit talks going to the wire, as European Union negotiations nearly always do, is such a concern that Britain's Sky News reports that the bloc is already considering ways to ratify a deal even if it is struck at the very last moment. The EU fears Britain will slash social and environmental standards, and pump state money into United Kingdom industries, becoming a low-regulation economic rival on the bloc's doorstep.

An EU diplomat also said the British proposal did not meet the bloc's demand for an independent body from the government.

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