The Edition


Brexit talks to go ahead despite virus spread: UK

30 March 2020, MVT 15:40
Brexit supporters gathered outside parliament on Friday to cheer Britain's departure from the European Union following three years of epic political drama -- but for others there were only tears. PHOTO: AFP
30 March 2020, MVT 15:40

Britain said Friday that talks over a post-Brexit trade deal will take place next week despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier contracting COVID-19.

"In terms of the timetable, there's no change from our point of view," Johnson's spokesman told reporters, adding the joint commission meeting scheduled for Monday was "going ahead".

The meeting, led by senior minister Michael Gove, would "oversee the implementation, application and interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement and will seek to resolve any issues that may arise from it.

"The meeting will happen remotely instead of in-person... and so we are considering alternative ways to host it, such as conferencing or conference calls."

Johnson announced on Friday he had tested positive. Barnier said he had coronavirus on March 19. 

Britain's lead negotiator in the talks, David Frost, also displayed virus symptoms, London said just two days before Barnier announced his positive result.

Barnier has wished Johnson "a speedy recovery".

The EU and Britain suspended earlier meetings meant to work out a treaty on future ties following the UK's exit in January from the European bloc.

But the virus delays have raised doubts over whether a deal can be struck before the already tight current deadline of December 31.

Although Britain has left the EU, the two parties agreed a standstill transition period until the end of the year to negotiate a new partnership.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, EU officials had warned this was not long enough.

London, United Kingdom | AFP