EU trade talks in London could be postponed over coronavirus fears

Michael Gove reveals the next round of post-Brexit trade talks with the EU in London could be postponed over coronavirus fears

  • Second round of talks due to take place in London from March 18 – 20 
  • Gove told MPs this morning that the two sides were discussing the practicalities
  • Comes amid coronavirus cases in both the UK and European Parliaments 

Vital face-to-face talks with the EU over a post-Brexit free trade deal could be postponed over coronavirus fears, Michael Gove revealed today.

Talks are due to take place in London from March 18, following last week’s inconclusive discussions in Brussels.

But the senior Cabinet minister told MPs this morning that the two sides were discussing the practicalities given that there are coronavirus cases in both capitals.

Asked by the Future Relationship with the European Union Committee whether negotiations could be impacted by the spread of coronavirus and whether face-to-face meetings would continue, Gove said: ‘It’s a live question.

‘We were looking forward to the joint committee meeting in the UK on the 30th of this month and we were also looking forward to the next stage of the negotiations going ahead.

‘But we have had indications today from Belgium that there may be a specific … health concern.’ 

Health minister Nadine Dorries fell ill on Friday and was diagnosed with coronavirus on Tuesday evening

Mr Gove also said that while Britain planned to produce a draft free trade agreement ahead of those talks, a decision had not yet made on whether this would be published. 

A spokesman for the European Commission said the second round of talks was still scheduled to go ahead. 

It came as it emerged Boris Johnson is not being tested for coronavirus despite being at a reception with infected health minister Nadine Dorries.

Downing Street said the PM did not need to be checked as he was showing ‘no symptoms’ and had not been within two metres of the quarantined MP.

Despite MPs saying he should be tested, sources also insisted there was less risk because Mr Johnson regularly washed his hands. 

Ms Dorries has revealed she has put herself into isolation, just days after attending a reception at No10 with the PM.

The Tory MP gave a speech in the Commons on Wednesday night, was in the tea rooms with other politicians, and held a surgery on Saturday for 50 of her constituents. She is believed to have started feeling ill on Thursday, before deteriorating the following day.

The 62-year-old had the virus and she is now said to be recovering – although she voiced fears for her 84-year-old mother, who is living at her home and ‘began coughing’ yesterday.   

Mr Johnson attended a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey with the Queen on Monday. 

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