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Brexit

Covid-19 could delay next round of Brexit trade talks, Gove signals

Parliament TV/PA Wire

By Shaun Connolly, PA Political Correspondent

Covid-19 may lead to a delay in the next round of trade talks between the UK and EU, Michael Gove has indicated.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made the comments as he insisted the UK could be able to secure separate trade deals with the EU and US by the end of the year.

Asked about whether the coronavirus could impact on upcoming negotiations, Mr Gove told the Commons Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union: "It's a live question.

"We were looking forward to the next stage of the negotiations going ahead.

"But we have had indications today from Belgium that there may be a specific public health concern."

The second round of trade talks between the UK and EU are due to take part in London next week.

Mr Gove said that separate trade deals with the EU and US could be sorted out by the end of the year.

The cabinet minister said: "There is no reason why they both can't be completed by the end of the year."

Mr Gove insisted that there would not be an extension to the transition period scheduled to end on December 31 after the UK formally quit the EU in January.

He said: "We are in a position of having left, the question is now whether we have an Australian-style or a Canada-style relationship with the EU, and that will depend on what the EU's response is.

"But we've left, the Prime Minister has been very clear that we are not going to extend the transition period.

"The course is set and I think it would be foolish for anyone to imagine that the Prime Minister is not going to stick to that timetable.

"I think people underestimate that at their peril."