Jeremy Hunt says “extra time” may be necessary to deliver Brexit

The UK Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has raised the possibility that the UK’s departure from the European Union might be delayed by a short period for technical reasons. 

Hunt said that if the Government “ended up approving the [Brexit] deal in the days before the 29 March, then we might need some extra time to pass critical legislation.” 

There were reports that the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, also privately believes that Brexit will need to be delayed, and has questioned the Prime Minister’s strategy of publicly insisting the UK will leave the EU on the 29th March. 

Nine cabinet ministers in total, including Justice Secretary David Gauke, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, are thought to believe a delay is necessary. 

However, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling denied that the Government was “talking about extensions” to Brexit, saying that the focus should be on “getting on with the job of completing the deal.” 

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said that the Government remained committed to leaving the EU on 29 March.

This comes as the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, announced that Parliament’s February recess would be cancelled in order to make more time to pass Brexit legislation. 

Speaking in the Commons, Leadsom said that the public “would expect that the House is able to continue to make progress at this important time.”

Elsewhere, there were reports that a number of EU officials and diplomats fear that if the UK asks for an extension to Article 50, it would not be long enough to secure a deal, raising the prospect of a No Deal outcome in June.

Speaking on news channel France 24, Open Europe’s Henry Newman said, “The legal position is clearly that there’s going to be No Deal unless we can find a way of agreeing the deal. 

And [EU Commission] President Juncker can stand up and say many times that ‘this is the deal and you’ve got to agree the deal,’ but ultimately if Parliament doesn’t agree with him, what is the Prime Minster supposed to do other than come back to Brussels and try to find a way through?” 

Newman also said, “Ultimately, it is also in the interest of the EU to secure a deal…We are in touching distance of an agreement and it’s imperative that both sides recognise that not much compromise is required to get this over the line.” Newman is also quoted  saying, “Conservative Eurosceptics must accept that there is no realistic prospect of replacing the backstop entirely, and the Labour party should remember that they voted to trigger Article 50, setting in train our exit from the EU. 

The customs union they are now calling for is already at the heart of the backstop of the current deal. It’s time to come together around a compromise.” 

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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