The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Barnier on Thursday morning tweeted: “I would like to inform you that I have tested positive for #COVID19. I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team.”For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together.”
—Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) March 19, 2020
Barnier, 69, led the EU’s Brexit talks with the United Kingdom and is leading the bloc’s talks with the UK over a future trade deal.
Those talks got underway a few weeks ago but have been stalled by the spread of the COVID-19 virus across Europe.
The latest round was scheduled to take place in London this week. However, both sides agreed to cancel those talks, and are exploring ways of conducting negotiations over video calls.
Barnier’s announcement is set to put pressure on the EU and UK government to extend the Brexit transition period, which is currently set to expire at the end of December.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that he will not extend the transition period, and that he will be able to strike a free trade agreement with the EU before then.
However, the outbreak of coronavirus has cast significantly more doubt over whether both sides will be able to do it in that timeframe.