The British government plans to restart talks with the European Union over the two sides’ future relationship as soon as this month after they were thwarted by the coronavirus.
Full negotiations were suspended in March after just one round, with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier testing positive for the disease and his U.K. counterpart David Frost also isolating himself after showing symptoms. The U.K. government wants to strike a deal by the end of the year and has insisted it won’t extend that deadline despite calls from business to delay amid the pandemic.
In a statement on Twitter on Tuesday, Frost said he will speak to Barnier next week to discuss a timetable for talks in April and May. He said Britain will share with the EU additional draft texts of how it sees the final agreement. A government spokesperson declined to say what subjects they would cover.
“U.K.-EU contacts have been continuing in these difficult times,” Frost said. “We have remained in touch throughout, both sides have exchanged legal texts, and last week we had a series of conference calls to explore and clarify technicalities.”
The U.K. has already given texts to the EU covering trade, aviation and civil nuclear issues, but hasn’t published them. The EU has published a full draft version of how it sees a final agreement in all areas.
If the two sides can’t ready a trade deal by the end of the year, Britain would in effect crash out and have to trade with the bloc on terms set by the World Trade Organization, which would include tariffs on products like cars and meat as well as quotas.
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