U.K. Cabinet minister Michael Gove | Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Michael Gove: Coronavirus will ‘concentrate the minds’ of EU Brexit negotiators
It is ‘entirely possible’ to conclude Brexit talks by December, UK Cabinet minister says.
Updated 4/27/20, 11:37 PM CET
LONDON — The coronavirus pandemic will “concentrate the minds” of the EU’s Brexit negotiators and help secure a trade deal by the end of the year, U.K. Cabinet minister Michael Gove said Monday.
Gove, who leads preparations for a no-deal end to the Brexit transition period, said it is “entirely possible” negotiations on the EU-U.K.’s future relationship will conclude by December 31.
The second round of negotiations about Britain’s relationship with the EU ended Friday with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier describing progress as “disappointing” and accusing U.K. negotiators of refusing to engage on the most important issues for the EU.
Giving evidence to the House of Commons Brexit committee, Gove said: “I think the COVID crisis, in some respects, should concentrate the minds of EU negotiators, reinforcing the vital importance of coming to a conclusion.”
“It is undeniable that a fair-minded observer looking at the situation would say that there are difficult challenges ahead for individual member states and the EU itself. However, the professionalism of the [European] Commission negotiating team and their focus on trying to make progress has not, so far as I can see, been affected.”
An extension to the Brexit transition — repeatedly ruled out by Britain — would postpone a deal and would require the U.K.