London, 19 November 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Brexit talks between Britain and the European Union were paused on Thursday after one of the negotiators tested postive for the novel coronavirus.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier announced with Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, on Thursday that the talks had been suspended after the diagnosis.
It comes after an EU official said on Monday it would be the last chance to hammer out a trade deal with London before Britain leaves the single market in January.
In a tweet published on Thursday, Barnier said: “Update: one of the negotiators in my team has tested positive for Covid-19.
“With @DavidGHFrost, we have decided to suspend the negotiations at our level for a short period. The teams will continue their work in full respect of guidelines.”
Frost responded on his Twitter page that he was in “close contact” with Barnier about the situation. He added: “The health of our teams comes first. I would like to thank the @EU_Commission for their immediate help and support.”
Neither Frost nor Barnier confirmed if they also had tested positive for the virus.
If a deal is not struck before the end of the deadline, tariffs and other trade barriers will be imposed, which could wreak havoc on businesses and supply chains.
Brussels and London have been racing against the clock to wrap up a deal, but negotiations have yielded meagre progress.
Meanwhile, earlier on Thursday, a spokesperson for the British prime minister revealed that Britain is in “advanced” talks with Canada to agree on a free trade deal.
Should the deal with Canada be completed before the Brexit deadline, it could replace a deal with the EU.