The second stage of Brexit negotiations could be held via videoconference because of coronavirus, the U.K. and EU have confirmed.
According to a joint statement, the next round of trade talks between the U.K. and the EU, which was due to take place in London next week, will not happen “in the form originally scheduled.”
The U.K. government insist there will be no extension to the transition period.
Negotiators were expecting to conduct discussions from March 18 in the U.K. capital, while the joint committee to oversee the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement was scheduled to meet on March 30.
But the joint statement said: “Given the latest COVID-19 developments, U.K. and EU negotiators have Thursday jointly decided not to hold next week’s round of negotiations in London, in the form originally scheduled. Both sides are currently exploring alternative ways to continue discussions, including if possible the use of video conferences.”
Downing Street and senior ministers have insisted the Brexit transition period, which is due to end in December, will not be extended.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, is expected to publish a new plan, based on his previous mandate after it is circulated to member states tonight.
One EU diplomat said the new position will present the bloc’s “take-it-or-leave-it” offer to Britain.
Mr Barnier is said to be furious with his UK counterpart, David Frost, for claiming the consequences of Brexit were yet to sink in with Brussels.
London is also expected to present its own draft legal text as part of next week’s talks.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove last week said it would establish Britain’s push for a Canada-style free trade agreement.
Describing the plan, an ally of Boris Johnson said: “We are producing the text because we are ready to do it. It is not a bespoke trade deal — it is a text based on the precedent of deals the EU has already struck with sovereign third countries.”