Thursday 19 March 2020
Brexit talks delayed
The second round of trade talks with the EU have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Negotiations were set to take place in London this week.
Face to face discussions were cancelled last week with teleconferencing mooted as a solution before suspension of talks was finally announced on Tuesday.
We “will not formally be convening negotiating work strands tomorrow in the way we did in the previous round,” said a UK government spokesperson.
Belgian authorities announced a lockdown the same day that has since come into effect, meanwhile some UK officials working on the negotiations have already been moved to crisis-planning to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
The EU side were also making slow progress after staff were banned from travelling to work. Emailing one another from home has slowed down the work-rate considerably.
“We haven’t had time to properly go through our own text,” a source told the Telegraph. “There were going to be in-depth meetings, but now they are cancelled.”
Talks will be extended, EU insiders predict
When will talks resume?
Italy, France, Spain and Belgium are all on lockdown until at least next month. The FT today reports London will follow suit, if not the rest of the United Kingdom, for the time being at least.
Yesterday, the Telegraph reported the government believes it will have no choice but to ask Brussels for an extension.
What’s the bet the they new negotiating window will last longer than the eleven months both sides originally had in order to get a deal done. And as we’ve seen before, once one extension is called, it’s all too easy to make another, and another.
Given that by end-2020 there'll be no immigration, most trade will be necessities, & all border crossings will involve extensive, slow disease checks, what positive difference is extending "transition" with the EU supposed to make to anything? Let's focus on real issues.
— Andrew Lilico (@andrew_lilico) March 19, 2020
Let’s hope Boris and his 80-seat majority makes the difference this time.
Amid reports no-deal planners are among the Whitehall staff moved onto coronavirus crisis management an EU official has told the FT, a long pause in talks and contingency planning will make a delay to “real” Brexit at the end of the year, inevitable.
“There will simply be no bandwidth to prepare for a no-deal [outcome] on the UK side,” said the official.
But, honestly, what would EU officials know about Britain’s contingency for a WTO outcome.
Dominic Raab was less pessimistic (funny how it’s always the EU laying on the gloom).
“Negotiations can still proceed given all of the logistical arrangements that have been put in place,” said the foreign secretary, echoing comments made by fellow Brexiteer Mark Francois – see above.
“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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— Leave.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) March 19, 2020