A hard Brexit is more likely due to the coronavirus crisis because Britain and the European Union have made so little progress in talks, Germany’s foreign minister has said.
Heiko Maas said that negotiations between Britain and the EU so far on the future trade relationship had yielded few gains with the UK disregarding the political declaration, which he said was “simply not on”.
Britain left the EU in January, and talks with the bloc are now focused on setting new trading terms from 2021, when London’s status-quo transition period ends. However, the talks quickly hit an impasse when negotiations resumed last month, according to diplomats and officials.
“It’s worrying that Britain is moving further away from our jointly agreed political declaration on key issues in the negotiations,” Mr Maas told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.
“It’s simply not on, because the negotiations are a complete package as it’s laid out in the political declaration.”
Mr Maas said there was currently neither common ground on how to shape a comprehensive trade deal or on whether to extend the negotiation period beyond the end of the year.
“The British government is still refusing to extend the deadline,” Mr Maas said. “If it stays that way, we will have to deal with Brexit in addition to the coronavirus at the turn of the year.”
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, said on Friday that the coronavirus pandemic had made an already difficult timeline for a British-European Union trade deal “virtually impossible” and that it would make sense to seek more time.