Discussions between Barnier and Frost suspended due to Covid-19 case

David Frost and Michel Barnier (right), Brexit negotiators, March 2, 2020. – Olivier HOSLET / POOL / AFP

Time is running out but negotiations will have to wait. Michel Barnier, the French Brexit negotiator, announced the suspension of post-Brexit discussions with his counterpart David Frost, due to a case of Covid-19 in his team.

“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. The teams will continue their work in full compliance with the rules, ”added the negotiator, who himself had tested positive for Covid last March, at the start of the discussions.

Delay in discussions

“The health of our teams comes first,” Frost also replied on Twitter. The British government is discussing with the EU “the implications for the negotiations”, explained one of its spokespersons. 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.

There are less than 50 days until December 31, when the post-Brexit transition period will end during which the United Kingdom – which officially left the EU on January 31, will stop applying European standards. .

A still long process

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.

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.

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