Trade talks between Britain and the EU have been delayed after Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, tested positive for coronavirus.
Barnier was due to meet the UK’s negotiating team in London on Wednesday to continue talks on a deal to agree the future relationship between the UK and the EU after Brexit.
Those talks were cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis, although draft legal texts for a post-Brexit trade and security treaties were still exchanged.
The UK government was insisting that that trade talks could be completed this year. But Barnier’s infection means that most of the key officials on the EU’s negotiating teams will be forced into isolation. The EU now sees an extension to the transition – which sees Britain remaining a full member of Europe’s single market and customs union despite its EU exit in January – as inevitable owing to the coronavirus outbreak.
The French former European Commissioner announced he would be isolating himself at home in France. He said: “I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team. For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together.”