Michel Barnier tests positive for coronavirus: EU Brexit negotiator, 69, says ‘I’m fine, morale is good’ as he reveals he’s infected
- Michel Barnier said today he had tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday
- The Frenchman said he was ‘following the necessary instructions’ with his staff
- The 69-year-old becomes the highest-profile EU official to be infected so far
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has tested positive for coronavirus, he revealed today.
The Frenchman said he was ‘doing well and in good spirits’ and announced he was ‘following the necessary instructions’ along with his staff.
‘I’m as well as I can be, strictly confined to my home. I’m fine, morale is good,’ he said in a video he shared on Twitter this morning.
Mr Barnier, 69, becomes the highest-profile EU official to be confirmed as a Covid-19 patient since the outbreak began – throwing the future of Brexit talks into fresh doubt.
Speaking from his home, the EU negotiator revealed he was tested yesterday and hailed the health workers battling the crisis
Speaking from his home in Fr ance, the EU negotiator revealed he was tested yesterday and hailed the health workers battling the crisis.
He also held up a copy of a 1990 book he wrote called ‘Each for All’ as he declared that ‘everyone has a role to play to fight this collective battle’.
‘My message to all those who are affected or currently isolated: we will get through this together,’ he said.
Mr Barnier had been due to resume talks with Boris Johnson’s Europe adviser David Frost on Wednesday, but these had already been scuppered by the virus outbreak.
Negotiations on a future trading relationship were expected to get back on track next week, but not in person.
It is unclear whether they will now have to be delayed again.
Despite the disruption, the UK and EU did exchange draft legal texts for the future relationship on Wednesday evening.
Mr Johnson has insisted that the Brexit transition period will not be extended past December 31 despite the coronavirus chaos taking up so much of the government’s time.
The PM pointed to laws preventing ministers from requesting a delay when asked at his daily coronavirus press conference on Wednesday.
‘It’s not a subject that’s being regularly discussed, I can tell you, in Downing Street at the moment,’ he told reporters.
‘There is legislation in place that I have no intention of changing.’
Mr Barnier had been due to resume talks with Boris Johnson’s Europe adviser David Frost (pictured together) on Wednesday, but these had already been scuppered by the virus
Number 10 said on Monday that alternative ways to hold the talks between Mr Frost and Mr Barnier were being examined.
‘We continue to hold discussions with the EU on seeing if we can find a way of facilitating the talks to take place, such as teleconferencing,’ a spokesman said.
The EU has published a draft of its intentions for the talks that has exposed deep divisions between the two sides.
The proposal would ensure Britain does not diverge far from EU rules on state aid and environmental, labour and quality standards.
But Number 10 wants a simple free trade agreement between ‘sovereign equals’ and is prepared to sacrifice access to the EU market in exchange for regulatory freedom.
Mr Barnier has been the EU’s Brexit frontman since 2016, first negotiating the withdrawal deal with Theresa May and then reaching a revised deal with Mr Johnson.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said last week that six of its staff members had tested positive for coronavirus.
The Commission sent most of its workers home on Monday, with only a few coming in to perform ‘critical functions’ in shifts.
Around 32,000 people are employed by the Commission, mainly in Brussels but also in Luxembourg.