Brexit negotiations are suspended after a member of the European Union’s negotiating team tested positive for COVID-19. However, Reuters says officials are still working remotely to get an EU-United Kingdom trade deal on the books that would enter into full force in less than two months.
Finland’s European affairs minister says the talks could still succeed, and a comprehensive deal can be done by the time Britain’s transition out of the EU wraps up on December 31. Negotiators told Reuters in a phone interview that the negotiating stage is “critical.”
They say the time pressure is huge, but both sides haven’t given up their faith that the deal will get done. The chief Brexit negotiators are the EU’s Michael Barnier and the UK’s David Frost. Barnier says on Twitter that the teams “will continue their work in full respect of safety guidelines.”
Some of the EU member-states like the Netherlands, France, Belgium, and Spain have asked the executive European Commission, which is negotiating with Britain on behalf of the bloc, to update emergency plans for a possible no-deal on Brexit. France’s representative on the Commission says Britain must accept fair competition rules for companies or be shut out of the EU’s single market of 450 million consumers in 2021.