Brexit crisis: EU and UK finally near deal but new fears erupt over talks COLLAPSING

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Post-Brexit trade talks have intensified in recent days and are continuing in Brussels this weekend. The finer details over an agreement are now under the microscope but officials are increasingly concerned the hard work could be thrown away if a senior figure tests positive for COVID-19, amid the surging number of cases in the UK and Belgium.

The Brexit transition period is due to end in less than two months and if a leading figure tests positive they will be forced to self-isolate for up to two weeks.

Talks between UK Brexit negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier have been taking place in person with social distancing.

The discussions are now centred on the draft legal texts of a trade deal and it is thought the negotiations are now too complex to be conducted via video calls as had been done during the early rounds.

A source close to the discussions told the Sunday Telegraph: “COVID-19 is causing a lot of worry.

“If one person in a senior team catches it you can see a situation where we cannot do it anymore.”

Belgium, home of the European Parliament, now has the highest number of coronavirus cases per population in Europe.

In the second half of October, Belgium reported an average of 1,600 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, more than twice as many as in France.

Belgium, much like England, has been plunged into a second lockdown with all non-essential shops closing until December.

Mr Frost returned to Brussels on Thursday to seek a breakthrough in talks with Mr Barnier.

Outstanding issues over fisheries and the so-called “level-playing field” on competition remain the main stumbling blocks to any deal.

Mr Barnier gave an update on Friday ahead of the final round of talks, saying: “Working hard for an agreement.

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“Much remains to be done.”

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, was upbeat about the prospect of a deal being reached but acknowledged a number of issues remained.

She said: “We’re making good progress but two critical issues, level playing field and the fisheries.


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“We would like to see more progress.

“We are in very close contact on an hourly basis because the negotiations now have been intensified.

“There are 11 other fields of files that have to be negotiated.”

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