Express.co.uk readers can vote in our poll on whether they agree with post-Brexit trade talks being cancelled amid the Covid-19 outbreak. It comes as Boris Johnson’s Europe adviser David Frost and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier were set to hold discussions today.
But a UK Government spokesman said on Tuesday they would not “formally be convening negotiating work strands”.
But they added that both sides remain “fully committed” to the negotiation process.
And they insisted that the December 31 transition period deadline would not be extended, highlighting that it was “enshrined in law”.
The spokesman said: “In light of the latest guidance on coronavirus, we will not formally be convening negotiating work strands tomorrow in the way we did in the previous round.
“We expect to share a draft FTA alongside the draft legal texts of a number of the standalone agreements in the near future still, as planned.
“Both sides remain fully committed to the negotiations and we remain in regular contact with the European Commission to consider alternative ways to continue discussions, including looking at the possibility of video conferencing or conference calls, and exploring flexibility in the structure for the coming weeks.
“The transition period ends on December 31, 2020. This is enshrined in UK law.”
Face-to-face meetings for the second round of negotiations had already been ruled out because of the virus.
The trade deal talks, which began in Brussels earlier this month, were due to switch between the British and Belgian capitals.
The UK officially left the EU on March 31 and is in a transition period with the bloc until the end of 2020 as the two sides work to strike a trade agreement.
Brexit LIVE: Boris REJECTS transition period delay due to coronavirus [LIVE BLOG]
Brexit: France’s fisheries warning to Boris Johnson revealed [INSIGHT]
Coronavirus: Do you have an ‘underlying health condition’? [ANALYSIS]
The Prime Minister has repeatedly pledged he will not push back the deadline.
But the coronavirus crisis has led to calls to rethink the timetable.
It comes as 55,000 people in the UK are estimated to have the killer virus.
Meanwhile, the death toll has climbed to 71.
The public has been told to avoid all non-essential contact and travel.
In other coronavirus developments, the Government announced that emergency legislation would give the police powers to arrest and isolate people to protect public health.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak vowed to do “whatever it takes” as he unveiled a £350 billion package to help businesses.
The Queen will travel from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle tomorrow and is expected to stay beyond the Easter period.
And the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told MPs on Tuesday it is hoped the death toll can be kept to less than 20,000.
Source: Read Full Article