Coronavirus could lead to no-deal Brexit crash out, leading Labour peer warns

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
Baroness Smith of Basildon, centre, speaks during the 'Parliament and Brexit' conference in Westminster on Tuesday (James Morris)

Coronavirus could scupper the government’s Brexit negotiations with the EU, a leading Labour peer has warned.

Angela Smith, Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, said priority focus on the outbreak – for which the number of cases is dramatically rising by the day – could lead to a no-deal crash out at the end of the year.

After Britain left the EU on 31 January, the government entered a transition period in which it will negotiate its future relationship with the EU, including a vital trade deal.

The period will end on 31 December, and Boris Johnson has insisted he will not trigger an option to extend it.

Live: Read the latest coronavirus news here

Speaking at a Westminster conference event about parliament’s scrutiny of Brexit, Baroness Smith of Basildon said: “The government, at some point, is going to have to make a judgment.

“It may be difficult to do all the negotiations in the time they want.

“The government has to make a judgement: ‘Can we do everything we want to do in the time we’ve got, while we’ve also got this huge international focus on managing coronavirus?’

“There’s tension at the heart of government and I still fear that we could crash out without all these issues [with the EU] being resolved.

Read more: Rory Stewart says government has made 'serious mistake' in tackling coronavirus

“I think the jury’s still out as to where the government is going to end up.”

If the government does decide to extend the transition period, it must give notice of this by 30 June.

A total of 373 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Tuesday, up from 319 at the same point on Monday, the Department of Health said.

The UK has the fifth highest number of confirmed cases in Europe, according to the World Health Organisation, behind Italy, France, Germany and Spain.

Brexit briefing: 296 days until the end of the transition period