In spite of the coronavirus outbreak, a Downing Street spokesperson has said that the post-Brexit transition period will not be extended beyond December 31, 2020.
Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in Westminster, and Lib Dem acting leader Sir Ed Davey, had written to the prime minister urging him to call an immediate suspension to negotiations and request an extension to the transition period beyond December.
Should a deal not be in place by the December deadline, UK-EU trade will default to World Trade Organization terms.
However, chief UK negotiator David Frost has since confirmed that talks with the EU have continued through the pandemic, and Number Ten remains insistent that the negotiating window will remain unaltered.
Frost said that he and chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier would decide on a timetable for the next round of discussions in April and May.
Frost tweeted: “We have remained in touch throughout, both sides have exchanged legal texts, and last week we had a series of conference calls to explore and clarify technicalities.”
Nonetheless, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove wrote to the Commons Select Committee this week, saying that the structure of negotiations was “likely to change” in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak and that both parties would be “exploring flexibility”.
Gove added in his letter: “We remain in contact with the European Commission to explore alternative ways to continue discussions and will be guided by scientific advice.”