Brexit: EU-UK trade talks to go ahead via video link


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Michael Gove won’t be meeting EU officials face-to-face for a while

UK-EU talks on a post-Brexit trade deal will go ahead as planned next week, despite the chief negotiator on each side being diagnosed with coronavirus.

Much of Europe is on lockdown, so Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove will meet EU officials via video link.

The UK’s David Frost and the EU’s Michel Barnier are are in self-isolation after testing positive.

Downing Street insisted there would “no change” to its timetable for getting a trade deal done.

Under the terms of its withdrawal agreement with the EU, the UK has until the end of the year – during which it will continue to follow most Brussels rules – to reach a deal.

The UK has ruled out any deadline extension. But European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has warned it will be “impossible” to reach a comprehensive deal within that timescale.

Speaking last month, Mr Gove threatened that the UK could walk away from talks in June if the two sides had not agreed the “broad outline” of terms by then.

The government also published a 30-page document outlining its priorities for negotiations,

The first meeting of the joint UK-EU committee is due to take place by video conference on Monday, with Mr Gove facing European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the talks would “oversee the implementation, application and interpretation of the withdrawal agreement and will seek to resolve any issues that may arise from it”.

Mr Johnson announced on Friday that he had contracted coronavirus but was continuing to work in self-isolation.

Brexit happened on 31 January after Mr Johnson’s Conservatives won the general election by a landslide.

This ended more than three years of Parliamentary dispute and implemented the result of the 2016 referendum, in which 52% of UK voters chose not to stay in the EU.



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