Brexit talks resume under coronavirus cloud
Brussels: British and EU officials were scheduled to restart Brexit trade talks Monday after a break because of the coronavirus, which is making an end-of-year deal look even more unlikely.
After a first round in early March negotiations were suspended for six weeks as officials focused on the deadly virus sweeping Europe.
The June deadline set by London to assess the chances of an agreement is now fast approaching.
The novel coronavirus has affected officials directly, hitting both EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost -- and then, dramatically, putting Prime Minister Boris Johnson in intensive care.
Despite the ticking clock and the extra pressure brought by the worst global pandemic in living memory, Johnson's government rules out extending Britain's transition period to negotiate a future relationship with the EU.
Britain left the EU on January 31 but remains tied to it until the end of December.
Fears are growing that no deal will be reached, meaning that WTO rules with high tariffs and customs barriers would come into force between the UK and EU.
That prospect so alarmed the head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, that last week she urged Brussels and London to extend their deadline, saying it was in everyone's interests to reduce uncertainty amid the economic turmoil wrought by the pandemic.
But Johnson has remained deaf to the appeal, despite Britain's budget watchdog warning that the coronavirus lockdown could shrink the country's economy by a massive 13 percent in 2020. - AFP