European officials expect delay to Brexit talks during coronavirus outbreak

PUBLISHED: 13:23 09 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:50 09 April 2020

EU leaders attend a round table meeting as part of a European Union summit at European Union Headquarters in Brussels (Photo by OLIVIER MATTHYS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

EU leaders attend a round table meeting as part of a European Union summit at European Union Headquarters in Brussels (Photo by OLIVIER MATTHYS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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Brexit negotiations could be put on hold due to a shortage of videoconferencing equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

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While most European countries are on lockdown and face-to-face meetings are no longer an option, the EU is having to rely on videoconferences to negotiate a Brexit trade deal.

But in a leaked letter from Michael Clauss, German ambassador to the EU, to his government he claimed that there are “not enough availability of videoconferencing facilities at European institutions” and that only one video conference will be able take place per day.

It has fuelled doubts that the December deadline for the trade-deal will not be reached.

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In the leaked letter, the ambassador wrote: “Video conferences, even if they can be carried out, will not be able to replace physical meetings on an equal footing.

“No formal quorum, no marginalised conversations, no confidentiality of the negotiations, no interpreting. Difficulties in text work.”

Clauss also raised concerns about security during conferences, writing: “The Council secretariat strongly recommends planning only with one video conference per day.”

“The institution has even had to resort to using commercial application that do not offer the same level of privacy and are deemed too insecure to use for proper negotiations.”

The leaked letter adds that proposals to strike a deal before December “which was already hopelessly optimistic” were now “like fantasy land”.

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