Brexit negotiations ongoing despite pandemic, UK top negotiator says

Britain’s senior Brexit negotiator David Frost sent reassuring messages over Twitter late last night that contact with Europe has continued throughout the disruption caused by the coronavirus.

The prime minister’s Europe adviser and chief negotiator of Task Force Europe said he will speak with his European counterpart Michel Barnier next week. The pair aim to reach an agreement on a timetable for discussions that will take place in April and May.

“We have remained in touch throughout, both sides have exchanged legal texts, and last week we had a series of conference calls to explore and clarify technicalities,” Frost said in tweets on 7 April.

The UK officially left the European Union on 31 January, more than three years after the nation voted to exit in the June 2016 referendum. The country is now in an 11-month transition period during which it continues to follow EU rules while negotiators hammer out an exit deal. New rules for the UK will take effect on 1 January, 2021.

But the coronavirus, which has already claimed more than 82,000 lives globally, had stalled negotiations. A second round of talks that was due to take place via video conferencing from 18 March were called off as authorities on both sides focused on containing the virus.

Top officials on both sides have been personally affected – Barnier tested positive for Covid-19 in March and this week UK prime minister Boris Johnson was admitted to St Thomas Hospital in London where he is currently receiving treatment in the intensive care unit.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Ryan Weeks

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