Brexit could be delayed, warns Jeremy Hunt, with MPs breaks cancelled

Brexit could be delayed to ensure Parliament has time to pass critical legislation, senior figures on both sides of the Commons have hinted as MPs were told the February break would be cancelled.
Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Picture: AFP/Getty ImagesBritain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was “difficult to know” if negotiations with Brussels would run until the 11th hour, but confirmed that “extra time” may be needed to pass laws.

Mr Hunt’s suggestion was echoed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said it was “possible” Article 50 would need to be extended to secure a deal.

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But Downing Street insisted Theresa May remained “determined” to ensure that all the necessary arrangements would be in place for the UK to leave on 29 March.

“The Prime Minister’s position on this is unchanged – we will be leaving on 29 March,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

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Meanwhile, Commons leader Andrea Leadsom yesterday said the February recess for MPs was set to be scrapped.

The Commons had been expected to rise at the end of business on 14 February and return on 25 February.

“I realise that this is short notice for colleagues and house staff, but I do think our constituents will expect that the house is able to continue to make progress at this important time,” Ms Leadsom told MPs.

Commons staff who are forced to change holiday plans are able to seek compensation, but Downing Street said that will not apply to MPs.

Mr Hunt told the BBC’s Today programme: “I think it is true that if we ended up approving a deal in the days before 29 March then we might need some extra time to pass critical legislation.

“We can’t know at this stage exactly which of those scenarios would happen.”

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Mr Hunt said it was still possible to reach a deal as a consensus in Parliament had emerged.

He said the government was not ruling out any potential solutions, including a technological answer in a bid to solve the Irish border question. Meanwhile, on a visit to Derbyshire, Mr Corbyn told reporters: “It is possible that there will have to be an extension in order to get an agreement because we cannot leave the EU on 29 March without an agreement.

“Crashing out would mean problems of transport, problems of medicine supply, problems of supply to the food processing industry that does just-in-time deliveries – and that simply is not acceptable.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said cancellation of the recess was not enough and backed an extension to Article 50.

“The Tory government is in this desperate position as a result of their own chaotic planning,” he said.