German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the coronavirus crisis would not make Brexit negotiations easier, adding that Berlin would use its EU presidency in the second half of the year to ensure there is a “good result” for both the EU and Britain.
“Whether I think the extension of Brexit negotiations and the deadlines there are until the end of the year is good or not is irrelevant – the British government rejects that and made that clear again last week. It certainly won’t be easier given the coronavirus crisis,” he told a news conference on Friday.
On a similar tone, French European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin said the new coronavirus outbreak crisis does not change European priorities in the Brexit negotiations.
She also told a French Senate hearing that a no-deal Brexit would be an extra shock on top of the COVID-19 crisis but Britain would suffer the most.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who survived a coronavirus infection earlier this year, said Britain refused to allow any leeway to extend a transition period beyond Dec. 31, despite the massive economic problems that the pandemic has thrown up.
“I am worried,” Barnier said after what he described as another week of “disappointing” video negotiations between both sides. The EU has indicated the 27-nation bloc would be willing to extend the transition by up to two years, certainly considering the economic impact of the ongoing health crisis.