Brexit talks could be delayed over coronavirus

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Talks between the UK government and EU could be delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Former chancellor Philip Hammond has claimed that the government's self-imposed deadline to reach agreement with the EU by June could be postponed.

Speaking to the Sunday Times he said that governments and political leaders will have to turn their attention away from trade talks.

He explained: "If the virus starts to disrupt everyday life... and many other processes have slowed down as a consequence, there is no reason to think that Brexit trade talks will be immune, then the parties will have to work together in good faith to decide how to manage that."

Hammond warned the coronavirus effects on the economy could be greater than a no-deal Brexit.

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He said: "If the virus did last into the summer, and then we start to see the consequences of whatever is emerging from the Brexit process having an impact on confidence . . . the logical thing to do is to take a precautionary approach, build some reserves, conserve your capital, and I would expect the chancellor to do exactly that and to signal very loudly and clearly that he will intervene, and if necessary would not wait for the next budget".

The newspaper reports that EU officials "have talked to EU counterparts about halting the talks if the crisis deepens".

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For an extension to be applied both sides must agree to it before July 1st.

Over the weekend current chancellor Rishi Sunak denied the government would delay the transition period because of the coronavirus.

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