Face-to-Face Brexit Talks with EU Cancelled over Coronavirus

This picture taken on March 2, 2020 shows a screen with a graphic updates on the progress of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak around the world, during a press conference held at the Emergency Response Coordination Centre in Brussels, on the EU response to COVID-19, on March 2, 2020. - The …
JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images

In-person negotiations between British and EU negotiators slated for London next week have been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.

“Given the latest COVID-19 developments, UK and EU negotiators have today jointly decided not to hold next week’s round of negotiations in London, in the form originally scheduled,” the government said in a statement on Thursday jointly released by both parties.

“Both sides are currently exploring alternative ways to continue discussions, including if possible the use of video conferences,” the statement added.

Insiders speaking to the Financial Times said that could present logistical problems across the Channel as the European Commission had told its staff to work from home, saying: “That poses a challenge as people can’t get into their offices. But we still hope they [the talks] can happen in some form next week.”

Some 150 trade specialists and members of the Brussels negotiating team were expected to descend on the British capital on Wednesday, March 18th, for three days of talks for the second round of negotiations.

The announcement comes after senior minister Michael Gove told MPs on Wednesday that trade talks could be suspended amidst the coronavirus pandemic. However, he categorically rejected the notion that as a result, the UK’s exit from EU institutions — scheduled for December 31st, 2020 — would be delayed.

The progressive-left candidate for Labour leader and Remain voter Lisa Nandy had demanded that the UK “must” delay the exit because of coronavirus.

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