Boris Johnson will refuse to seek a fresh Brexit extension, despite Covid-19 drawing negotiations to a halt.
High-level will be “suspended for a short period”, it was announced today, following an agreement between EU chief Michel Barnier and the UK’s David Frost.
But despite being six weeks away from a Brexit cliff edge, with a no-deal outcome looming, Downing Street ruled out asking the EU for an extension.
“We are not extending the transition period,” a UK Government spokesman told the Mirror.
In a tweet announcing the news, Mr Barnier added: “The teams will continue their work in full respect of guidelines.”
Lord Frost said he was in “close contact” with Michel Barnier about the situation.
“The health of our teams comes first,” he said and thanked the European Commission for their help and support.
A UK Government spokesman said: “The Commission has informed us that an official in their delegation has tested positive for Covid-19.
“We are discussing with them the implications for the negotiations.
“We have been, and will continue to, act in line with public health guidelines and to ensure the health and welfare our teams.”
It comes as Boris Johnson himself is in two-week self-isolation following a face-to-face meeting with a Tory MP who later tested positive for the virus.
The unwanted development comes with the negotiations at a crucial point.
The need for any deal to be approved by the European Parliament and member states means there is very little time left for negotiations.
The major issues in the talks remain access to UK fishing waters, the “level playing field” designed to prevent unfair competition on issues including state subsidies and the governance arrangements for any agreement.
Going into this round of negotiations in Brussels Lord Frost said there had been “some progress in a positive direction in recent days” but “we may not succeed” in reaching a deal.
It is not the first time coronavirus has disrupted the talks.
In March, Mr Barnier contracted coronavirus while Lord Frost also self-isolated after developing symptoms.
There was better news in the UK’s negotiations for a trade deal with Canada as Downing Street said talks were at an “advanced stage” and “progressing well”.
The EU has a deal with Canada and the UK is seeking to continue similar arrangements from January 1.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week suggested the two sides were struggling to reach an agreement because British negotiators were out of practice, but Boris Johnson’s official spokesman told a briefing for Westminster journalists on Thursday morning that talks were progressing.
He said: “We are committed to securing a continuity trade deal with Canada before the end of the transition period.”