Brexit talks will continue remotely after being put on hold earlier today on the news that a member of the EU negotiating team tested positive for Covid.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier initially said he and his UK counterpart Lord David Frost had decided to put talks on ice “for a short period of time”.
“One of the negotiators in my team has tested positive for Covid-19,” he tweeted.
However, a government spokesperson this evening confirmed “the UK and EU teams have agreed to continue to negotiate remotely for the time being”.
“The talks will resume in person when it is judged safe to do so,” the spokesperson added. “The negotiations have been conducted throughout in a way that is consistent with applicable social distancing laws and guidance”.
Frost tweeted that he was “in close contact” with Barnier about the situation.
“The health of our teams comes first,” he said. “I would like to thank the European Commission for their immediate help and support.”
Downing Street sources said this week that an agreement would not be reached this week in any case.
Time is running short for both sides to close a deal before the UK leaves the EU’s single market and customs union on 31 December.
Brexit talks remain deadlocked, with state subsidy regulations, which are a part of the level playing field talks, and fisheries the largest barriers to a deal.
Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said on Monday that serious progress needed to be made this week.
“We have got to make big progress this week, hopefully we have got to get the big issues resolved in principle this week,” he said.
A Number 10 spokesperson said on Tuesday: “The Prime Minister set out that the weekend that he is keen to secure a deal with the EU, but not at the cost of our core principles of sovereignty.
“Significant issues do remain, particularly around fisheries and the so-called level playing field.”