David Frost, the United Kingdom’s chief negotiator in post-Brexit trade talks, is self-isolating after showing symptoms of coronavirus. This comes a day after Michel Barnier, the European Union’s lead negotiator, announced he had tested positive.
David Frost, 55, is avoiding all social contact in case he has contracted the disease. This is a new blow to hopes of making progress with trade talks.
The move will fuel speculation that the post-Brexit transition period will need to be extended beyond December, as the globe struggles to get a grip on the raging pandemic. The sides have already announced the postponement of the latest round of negotiations, which had been due to take place in London this week, however, Boris Johnson has so far dismissed the idea of an extension to the ‘standstill’ transition, pointing out that the December 31 deadline is enshrined in UK law.
Mr Barnier, 69, revealed he had tested positive yesterday, insisting he was ‘doing well and in good spirits’ and would be ‘following the necessary instructions’ along with his staff. ‘I’m as well as I can be, strictly confined to my home. I’m fine, morale is good.,’
His boss, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, is being tested herself after last meeting Mr Barnier two weeks ago. Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has wished his long-time sparring partner ‘a speedy recovery’.
The European Commission sent most of its workers home on Monday, with only a few coming in to perform ‘critical functions’ in shifts. Around 32,000 people are employed by the Commission, mainly in Brussels but also in Luxembourg.
The EU is imposing an entry ban on travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days, but it does not apply to the UK. The ban will not affect Europeans returning home, social workers or cross-border workers.