UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure which may prompt him to seek an extension to the Brexit transition period due to the current coronavirus crisis, The Sun reports.
The tabloid quoted Luxembourg’s Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Christophe Hansen as saying that Britain would “expose itself to the double whammy of coronavirus and the exit from the EU single market, which will inevitably add to the disruption, deal or no deal”.
“I can only hope common sense and substance will prevail”, he pointed out.
Hansen was echoed by German MEP David McAllister, chairman of the UK coordination group in the European Parliament, who noted that the coronavirus pandemic “complicates the already very ambitious schedule”.
“The EU has always been open to extending the transition period”, McAllister said, adding that “the ball is now clearly in the British court”.
He spoke after The Guardian cited unnamed sources as saying last Tuesday that planned negotiations between the UK and the EU have been abandoned after it became clear during a European Commission briefing that video-conferencing would not be suitable for the talks.
With the UK government yet to draft and provide a legal text for both sides, Brussels claimed that London's positions in the provided texts are “of different galaxies” with those of the EU, according to the sources.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Tests Positive for Coronavirus
Also last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he had tested positive for COVID-19, saying that he was self-isolating and pledging that he would "continue to lead the government's response via video-conference as we fight the virus”.
Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus.— Boris Johnson #StayHomeSaveLives (@BorisJohnson) March 27, 2020
I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus.
Together we will beat this. #StayHomeSaveLives pic.twitter.com/9Te6aFP0Ri
This followed EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier announcing that he had contracted COVID-19 and was following all necessary instructions from healthcare professionals. The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen underscored that Barnier's diagnosis would not affect the course of the post-Brexit negotiations.
The announcement came after Johnson told reporters on 18 March that an extension to the Brexit transition period was not on the table despite the disruption caused by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
After formally leaving the European Union on 31 January, the UK and EU have until the end of an eleven-month transition period to conclude a range of agreements on the future relationship between London and Brussels, the most pressing of which is a wide-ranging free trade deal.