Next week's Brexit talks cancelled over virus concerns

Brexit talks scheduled for next week in London cancelled over coronavirus concerns

A Union flag flies from a pole atop the Victoria Tower at the Houses of Parliament in London on October 9, 2019. (Credit: AFP)

Brexit trade talks scheduled to be held in London next week have been cancelled due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, a joint EU-UK statement said.

"Given the latest COVID-19 developments, EU and UK negotiators have today jointly decided not to hold next week's round of negotiations in London," the statement said.

"Both sides are currently exploring alternative ways to continue discussions, including if possible the use of videoconferences," it added.

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The talks were set to be held in the British capital from March 18-20.

Around 100 European negotiators were due to travel to the United Kingdom from next Tuesday, where 590 cases of coronavirus were officially registered.

But according to the UK government, the number of infected people is probably between 5,000 and 10,000.

More than 20,000 people have been infected in Europe with the new coronavirus and 930 have died.

Following the first round of negotiations in early March, the UK and the EU acknowledged major differences of opinion.

Meanwhile, the European Commission, the EU's vast executive arm, ordered non-essential staff to work from home starting on Monday.

"As much as it can affect our daily life, it is necessary to follow the experts' advice and apply social distancing measures at work," commission head Ursula von der Leyen said in a note to staff.

"As of Monday, all colleagues in non-critical functions will have to telework," she added.

The situation was made more pressing after the European Schools in Brussels, where EU officials and diplomats send their children, closed until the end of the month, according to a letter sent to parents.

 

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