“Do not share legal texts” UK negotiators warn Barnier’s team.

Boris Johnson’s lead negotiator has arranged the European Commission to not share several draft legal texts with member states amid fears they are leaked. David Frost has tabled a preliminary free-trade arrangement, such as chapters on nuclear and aviation cooperation. Still, he has instructed Michel Barnier to keep the specifics amongst his team of negotiators. However, EU diplomats have expressed worries of allowing negotiations to progress while their capitals are blocked from scrutinising the UK’s trade offer.

One Brussels source stated: “Member countries would still rather like to see by themselves when the UK text is available.”

European capitals have had to rely on briefings from Mr Barnier’s team following a series of informal talks with their British counterparts to “clarify” their positions.

Mr Frost and Mr Barnier will hold talks today in the hope of restarting the negotiations process, which has ground to a halt since the coronavirus outbreak plunged Europe into chaos.

The pair are expected to hammer out a timetable to allow the reopening of formal trade talks via video connection.

Mr Frost is also expecting to table new draft legal texts energy and justice and home affairs cooperation ahead of the next round of talks.

The European Commission yesterday said it’d be ready to negotiate an expansion into the post-Brexit transition due to the coronavirus epidemic.

“The Withdrawal Agreement gives the possibility to extend the transition period why up to one to two years. We’ve always said we are prepared to discuss this kind of extension,” a spokesman said.

Downing Street continues to insist that the deadline won’t be extended beyond the end of the year and is enshrined in law.

At Tuesday’s daily coronavirus media conference, Chancellor Rishi Sunak stated he was confident that trade talks could conclude a deal by the end of the year.

He explained: “We remain dedicated to the timeline we set out to conclude those talks from the end of the year.”

Under the EU Withdrawal Agreement, any extension request must be made by July and could see Britain stay after the bloc’s rulebook.

Nevertheless, Brussels expects the UK to eventually to ask for a delay, which could trigger a negotiation over the payment to get continuing access to the single market and customs union.

In conclusion, yet again we see the EU always offering the so-called hand of extension in hopes of Britain grabs on to it. Time and time again the UK is steadfast on its stance stating “we will not be extending beyond the negotiations deadline”. With all that’s going on, its clear to see the EU is testing the extension waters before they change their tactics.

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