Brexit, COVID-19 issues confront PM Johnson as UK politicians return from summer hols

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (R) and the British Prime Minister's Europe adviser David Frost speak at start of the first round of post-Brexit trade deal talks between the EU and the United Kingdom, in Brussels on March 2, 2020. PHOTO: Olivier HOSLET / POOL / AFP/File

LONDON  — UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired a Downing Street meeting of his most senior ministers Tuesday as the parliamentary machine sprung back into action after its lengthy summer recess.

With issues surrounding COVID-19 high on the agenda, the focus was also on latest developments on the Brexit front, with looming fears a future trading deal between Britain and Brussels will not be reached by the end of this year.

According to media reports in London, Number 10 played down prospects of reaching a trade deal, with an official spokesperson for Johnson saying it will be very difficult, heaping blame on Brussels’ insistence on tackling tough issues before a deal can be brokered.

Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost met Tuesday his EU counterpart Michel Barnier in London for informal talks ahead of the next round of formal talks next week.

The EU side is expected to hold a critical meeting next month when it hopes to finalise a trade agreement with Britain. It said it needs the green light in October to enable the 27 member states of the bloc to have enough time to sign-off any agreement before the end of this year.

Time though, said political analysts, is running short with a deadline looming in a matter of weeks.–Xinhua

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