Brexit Talks Suspended Anew as Member Contracts COVID-19

Brexit Talks Suspended Anew as Member Contracts COVID-19

Trade negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) were deferred anew after a member of the bloc tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

According to a report by BBC, EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart Lord David Frost have agreed to temporarily suspend talks for a “short period” of time to keep the outbreak at bay.

“One of the negotiators in my team has tested positive for COVID-19. With David Frost we have decided to suspend the negotiations at our level for a short period,” Barnier said.

“The teams will continue their work in full respect of guidelines,” he added.

He was forced to go into self-isolation.

For his part, Frost said on Twitter: “I am in close contact with Michel Barnier about the situation. The health of our teams comes first. I would like to thank the European Commission for their immediate help and support.”

The EU negotiator’s team was more affected by the development as under Belgian law, anyone testing positive for the virus would need to isolate for seven days while those who have direct contact with the carrier must undergo quarantine for 10 days.

The EU and the UK only have until next week to strike an agreement to give time for the European parliament to ratify any potential deal.

Otherwise, any trade between the two parties would automatically adopt the rules of the World Trade Organization where tariffs would be imposed on each other’s goods. This would result in higher expenses for firms, which in return will be passed on to consumers.

Both sides were willing to craft a deal to avoid taxes but the EU said it will not do a pact “at any price.”

The approval of the parliaments would still be needed if a deal will be agreed upon prior to the transition period.

Britain officially withdrew its membership with the EU on January 31 but will continue to follow the latter’s rules until the end of the year.

In an attempt to beat the deadline, both sides were open to conducting the negotiations through a video call conference.

Photo from Flickr

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