As the post-Brexit transition period comes to an end on December 31, discussions have been suspended between EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost due to a case of Covid-19 in the team European, announced the French Thursday on Twitter. The fear of a “no deal” threatens as the days go by.
“One of the negotiators on my team tested positive for Covid-19. With David Frost, we decided to suspend negotiations at our level for a short period, ”wrote the Frenchman on the social network, when the discussions are in their very last straight line.
The British government is discussing with the EU “the implications for the negotiations”, explained one of its spokespersons.
“The teams will continue their work in full compliance with the rules,” added the negotiator, who himself had tested positive for Covid in March, at the start of the discussions. “The health of our teams comes first,” David Frost also replied on Twitter.
Conclude as soon as possible
This suspension, even if it concerns only the negotiators themselves and their entourage, risks slowing down a little more discussions which have already fallen far behind the initial ambitions.
Without a trade treaty to govern their relationship, London and Brussels run the risk of a new economic shock, which would be added to the coronavirus epidemic.
Negotiators must reach a deal early enough before the end of the year to allow ratification by the UK, but also by the European Parliament, which meets for the last time of the year the week of December 14.
Coronavirus stifles other talks
The talks stumble on three subjects: the guarantees demanded in London in terms of competition, the access of Europeans to fish-rich British waters, and the way of settling disputes in the future agreement.
The state of the discussions could be discussed Thursday evening during a videoconference between the heads of state and government of the EU. But the meeting will mainly be devoted to the post-Covid recovery plan and the fight against the pandemic.
Michel Barnier was to give an update on Friday morning on the discussions with the ambassadors of the Member States.