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All Brexit Talks Cancelled As Coronavirus Crisis Grips Europe

By Rachel Wearmouth

See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak.

All face-to-face Brexit talks have been cancelled as coronavirus tightens its grip across Europe.

Downing Street said ministers will “not formally be convening” negotiations over EU-UK trade, amid the outbreaks of the virus in Britain and on the continent.

The statement says “both sides remain committed” to talks and hope to thrash out an agreement, suggesting there will be contact.

There has been no change in policy on the transition period due to end in December, a statement from the government on Tuesday said.

Ministers and officials from Brussels had been due to begin negotiations over UK-EU trade this month with both sides hoping to strike a fast-track deal in the coming months.

The news will intensify pressure on Boris Johnson to extend the transition period to ensure the UK does not crash out of the bloc and be forced to rely on World Trade Organisation rules.

A string of EU countries have introduced drastic measures to slow the spread of the virus, with worst-affected Italy operating a full lockdown on citizens’ movements.

In Britain, Johnson on Monday said that people should avoid all non-essential contact and travel.

He also urged said people should work from home and avoid pubs, clubs and theatres, and that the over-70s and vulnerable should strictly self-isolate.

The government said: “In light of the latest guidance on coronavirus, we will not formally be convening negotiating work strands tomorrow in the way we did in the previous round.

“We expect to share a draft free trade agreement alongside the draft legal texts of a number of the standalone agreements in the near future still, as planned.

“Both sides remain fully committed to the negotiations and we remain in regular contact with the European Commission to consider alternative ways to continue discussions, including looking at the possibility of video conferencing or conference calls, and exploring flexibility in the structure for the coming weeks.

“The transition period ends on 31 December 2020. This is enshrined in UK law.”

It came as foreign secretary Dominic Raab advised Brits against all non-essential global travel.

Chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance, meanwhile, said the virus could see as many as 20,000 people would die from the virus in the UK – and that based on government predictions for the disease that figure represented a “good outcome” but still “horrible”.

Via:: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/coronavirus-brexit-talks-over-eu-uk-trade-cancelled_uk_5e70f4f8c5b60fb69ddee923