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Brexit talks between the UK and EU resumed this week as both sides attempted to negotiate a deal in time for it to be ratified before the end of the year. Negotiations are at a critical point and experts claim this week was the final opportunity for a deal to be agreed by the UK and EU in order to ensure a deal could be agreed and ratified before the December 31 deadline. Those hoping for a deal have been dealt a crushing blow, however.
On November 19, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier announced talks will be suspended after someone tested positive for COVID.
Mr Barnier tweeted: “One of the negotiators in my team has tested positive for Covid-19.
“With [Lord Frost] we have decided to suspend the negotiations at our level for a short period.
“The teams will continue their work in full respect of guidelines.”
The UK’s chief negotiator Lord David Frost said he was in close contact with Mr Barnier about the ongoing situation.
He tweeted: “I am in close contact with Michel Barnier about the situation.
“The health of our teams comes first. I would like to thank the EU Commission for their immediate help and support.”
What does this mean for the UK’s deal with the EU?
It is unclear how many people are impacted by the outbreak or will be required to self-isolate as a result.
Anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus, tested positive for the virus, lives with someone who tests positive or is told to self-isolate by an official authority must self-isolate for several days, typically for at least 10 days.
In Belgium, self-isolation rules require people to quarantine for seven days instead of at least 10.
Both Lord Frost and Mr Barnier tested positive for the virus in March.
They self-isolated at the same time as Mr Johnson and it is thought they would have the covid antibodies.
However, like Boris Johnson, they would still have to self isolate if they came into contact with someone who tested positive.
A UK government spokesperson said: “The Commission has informed us that an official in their delegation has tested positive for COVID -19.
“We are discussing with them the implications for the negotiations.
“We have been, and will continue to, act in line with public health guidelines and to ensure the health and welfare of our teams.”
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There are just five weeks before the Brexit transition period ends.
Both the EU and UK need to agree terms and negotiate on the most contentious issues which relate to fisheries, the level-playing field and governance.
Once these issues are resolved and the terms are agreed, the deal must be approved in the UK Parliament and the EU Council.
This can take a while for the deal to be agreed through these institutions, especially as the agreement must be translated into the EU’s 24 official languages.
The EU Council has set a deadline of December 10 for a deal to be done.
Downing Street is scrambling to understand how the positive covid test will impact talks and exactly what the suspension in talks means for securing a final deal.
Previously senior diplomats warned that EU Governments would demand the European Commission launch emergency no-deal plans if a trade accord was not agreed by Friday.
The plans would help to mitigate what is understood to be the worst disruption to EU interests as a result of a no-deal exit.
There were reports this week a trade agreement could be announced on Monday or Tuesday.
But UK and EU sources have maintained each side is struggling to reach an agreement over the main points of contention.
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