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Sat, 28 March 2020

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EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tests positive for coronavirus amid UK talks uncertainty

EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tests positive for coronavirus amid UK talks uncertainty

The French politician announced his diagnosis on Twitter

2 min read

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has tested positive for coronavirus amid uncertainty over the future of talks on Britain's relationship with the bloc.

In a tweet on Thursday morning, the French politician wrote: “I would like to inform you that I have tested positive for #COVID19. 

“I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team.
 
“For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together.”

It follows the latest round of negotiations being cancelled amid the ongoing global outbreak.

But, despite the delay, the UK Government has insisted that the Brexit transition period will not be extended. 

The diagnosis of Mr Barnier, 69, raises further questions about the future of talks, as officials consider conducting them via video link.

On Wednesday, the UK Government said the UK’s negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart "will not formally be covening" for the time being.

But they added that both sides "remain fully committed" to ongoing talks.

The UK is set to formally leave the transition period - which keeps it closely aligned with the EU -  on 31 December 2020, with a deal on a future relationship expected to be ratified by November.

An extension to this period has repeatedly been ruled out by Boris Johnson, who said that the issue has been "regularly discussed in Downing Street” but that "there is legislation in place that I have no intention of changing". 

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the Commons this week that he remained hopeful that “negotiations can still proceed given all of the logistical arrangements that have been put in place”.

He added: “We're confident that we can get this done and, actually, I don't think delaying Brexit negotiations would give anyone the certainty on either side of the Channel that they need.”

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