Brexit trade talks as Michel Barnier suspended in Covid isolation

The Brexit talks are in chaos again when Michel Barnier gets into isolation when one of his negotiating teams tests positive for Covid-19

  • The EU chief negotiator will isolate for at least a week in accordance with Belgian regulations
  • Despite the setback, Downing Street insisted that talks resume remotely
  • EU ambassadors will be informed of the progress of the talks on Friday via video link

The Brexit talks were thrown into chaos yesterday after it was discovered that a member of Michel Barnier's team tested positive for coronavirus.

The EU chief negotiator will now be self-isolating for at least a week in accordance with Belgian health regulations.

Despite the setback, Downing Street insisted that talks resume remotely today.

Mr Barnier wrote on Twitter: “We have decided to suspend negotiations at our level for a short time. The teams will continue their work in full compliance with the guidelines. "

Brexit trade talks were suspended after a member of the EU team tested positive for coronavirus. In the picture Michel Barnier

A member of his team will inform the EU ambassadors about the progress of the talks this morning via video link.

Mr Barnier contracted the virus himself in March.

"We will continue to act in accordance with public health guidelines and ensure the health and well-being of our teams," said a UK government spokesman, adding that both sides assessed the impact on the discussions.

"A lot can be done virtually, although it doesn't help," a source close to the conversations said. "The real delay comes from content, not from bodies in space."

According to UK government sources, some of the UK negotiating teams were concerned about the return to Brussels due to the high death rate in Covid. Hopes have been raised that an agreement could have been announced early next week.

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, had told his colleagues that Monday was the deadline for an agreement, as the European Parliament had enough time to ratify it before its last session of the year on December 16.

Some Eurocrats have proposed holding an emergency meeting on December 28th to avoid the dangers of an accidental no deal. Another option would be to apply a deal temporarily until a vote can be organized.

The UK and Brussels have been fighting for months over important issues such as fishing rights, unfair competition and the monitoring of a future deal.

One official said both sides "went in circles" on these three issues. EU leaders should call on the European Commission to present their updated no-deal plans during a conference call of the 27 heads of state last night.

Before the news broke that Mr Barnier would have to self-isolate, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said: “It is time to clarify what this Brexit will look like. We're in stoppage time negotiations. A final agreement must be reached in the coming days. "

The Finnish Minister for European Affairs, Tytti Tuppurainen, warned: “We are at a critical stage in the negotiations.

"The time pressure is enormous and we all know that time is running out."