Coronavirus — Italy Detects New Variant, Bans Flights from UK

Italian health authorities have detected the first case of infection with the new variant of the deadly coronavirus identified in the United Kingdom, Italy’s Ministry of Health said in a statement on Sunday. The new coronavirus strain has spread across the UK and, according to the British government, can be up to 70% more contagious than the known previous variants.

UK- EU Trade Deal to Be Finalized In Next Few Days

According to people familiar with the negotiations, the UK and the EU are expected to reach a trade agreement in the next few days. After an EU negotiator contracted the new coronavirus, the two sides suddenly suspended their in-person talks this week, but officials on both sides expressed optimism.

Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen is a German politician and the president of the European Commission since 1 December 2019. She served in the federal government of Germany from 2005 to 2019 as the longest-serving member of Angela Merkel’s cabinet

The European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, offered fresh cause for optimism during a press conference. “After difficult weeks with very, very slow progress now we have seen in the last days better progress, more movement on important files. This is good,” she said.

People familiar with the matter who did not want to be named because the content of the talks was not made public said that an agreement may be reached before next weekend, or more likely in the week of November 30.

People familiar with the matter warned that to do this, the British government and the European Union still need to make major political decisions and that more concessions from the UK are needed. Otherwise, the negotiations may break down.

Ursula von der Leyen continued: “Within the frame of the level playing field, progress, for example, has been made on the question of state aid, but there are still quite some meters to the finish line so there’s still a lot of work to do. Where the timelines are concerned, time pressure is high without any question at the moment.”

“There’s a lot to work on because there is now substance where you can go through line by line, word for word. The whole team is engaged and working tirelessly day and night to reach the natural deadline we have to be done by the end of the year,” said Ursula von der Leyen.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Barnier, the chief negotiator of the European Union, had to isolate themselves after contacting patients with the new coronavirus, making the drafting of the agreement more complicated.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson MP is a British politician, author, and former journalist who has been Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party since 2019. He was Foreign Secretary from 2016 to 2018 and Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016.

Johnson will end the quarantine next Thursday. The EU is urging him to make a final decision and make the necessary concessions to reach an agreement. So far, the UK has refused to accept the EU’s requirements on a level playing field for enterprises and a mechanism for implementing agreements.

A UK official said: “Although there has been some progress in recent days, there is much work to be done and time is now very short. We now need to see more realism from the EU on what it means for the UK to be an independent state.”

Officials said that, including the participation of high-level officials, many factors in the coming days will determine when and whether an agreement will be reached, adding to the last-minute complexity. Barnier may be isolated until November 26, and then may go to London for the final round of talks.

One EU diplomat said: “There is tangible progress on a number of areas while gaps are only slowly shrinking on core issues like a level playing field, governance, and fisheries. Growing concern that the negotiation process does not proceed quickly enough to ensure the ratification of a possible agreement until the end-of-the-year deadline.”

“Hope is nevertheless that negotiations can be finalized quickly if and once the necessary political decisions are taken in London. At the same time, EU member states are in agreement that contingency planning needs to be ramped up in parallel to the ongoing and hopefully successful EU-UK negotiation process. Still, the EU needs to be prepared for every possible outcome.”

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