This weeks Brexit trade negotiations were cancelled on Tuesday due to the spread of the Coronavirus epidemic, as the UK government may seek a mutually agreed extension to the transition period, according to reports.
A face-to-face meeting on Wednesday between Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Europe adviser, David Frost, and the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier had already been ruled out due to COVID-19 crisis, and now the UK have announced that the two sides "will not formally be convening".
The two sides say that they "remain fully committed" to continuing the negotiations and will be looking for alternative means of resuming talks, such as video conferencing, a spokesperson said.
EU diplomats met in Brussels last Friday to discuss revisions to a draft text presented by Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, but have now moved to virtual discussions via email.
Anonymous senior Whitehall sources have also now said that civil servants involved in no-deal preparations are being redeployed to deal with coronavirus outbreak management.
It is reported that the government now accepts it will have to.seek an extension before the June deadline due to disruption over the pandemic and that business is in no state to deal with new arrangements on 1 January 2021.
The UK is adamant that a basic deal would be possible to negotiate by December 31 however and remain committed to not extending the transition period, which it legally can by up to 2 years.
The UK is currently in a transition period, after formally leaving the bloc on the 31 January this year, where it maintains single market and customs union membership until the end of this year.
There are now just over nine months for both sides to secure a future trading relationship, with just one round of talks completed thus far.
Leading economists, including the Bank of England, have consistently warned against pursuing a no-deal Brexit, which would mean that the UK falls onto World Trade Organisation trading rules and tariffs subsequently erected.
The government has said however that there is "absolutely no need" to extend the transition period and that a no deal Brexit would not be disastrous for the economy
While an extension would maintain the status quo so far as business and trading relations are concerned and stymie and potential fall-out, it could be politically problematic for the government who won a large majority in the 2019 general election on the promise of getting Brexit done.