High-level Brexit trade talks have been thwarted by the coronavirus, with negotiations paused after a confirmed case within the EU’s negotiating team.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier confirmed he had halted talks “for a short period” with the UK’s top negotiator David Frost after one of his team fell ill with the coronavirus. ““The teams will continue their work in full respect of guidelines,” he added.
A UK government spokesperson said discussions were ongoing between the two sides over “the implications for the negotiations.”
It came after the pound dipped on Thursday on reports European leaders are demanding the EU ramps up its no-deal Brexit planning for the end of the year.
Frustrations are said to be growing within several EU national governments that the European Commission has not yet published its contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit.
“It is high time to prepare people and businesses in case we cannot fix an agreement in time,” said one senior EU diplomat quoted by the Times.
Negotiations have gone down to the wire between Brussels and the EU over a trade deal once Britain’s transition period expires at the end of the year.
The UK left the bloc at the start of 2020 but temporarily retains full market access and other rights.
Firms and economists including government forecasters expect severe short-term disruption and long-term economic damage if no deal is struck, which could mean the abrupt imposition of tariffs, quotas and other administrative burdens.