Brexit could be delayed, warns British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt

Brexit could be delayed, warns British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt

Latest: Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union could be delayed to enable the UK Government to pass crucial legislation if a Brexit deal is not agreed until late March, the British Foreign Secretary has warned.

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.

His comments came as the UK Institute for Government (IFG) said the UK is unprepared for a no-deal exit as there would be “extremely damaging” disruption.

The think tank predicted that in eight out of 11 broad policy areas, including health and borders, the UK Government would be unable to avoid “major negative impacts”.

IFG director Bronwen Maddox told the BBC the UK is “not ready for no deal”, adding: “The disruption from no deal – simply from the lack of preparation – would be extremely damaging. It cannot be dismissed as a mere blip.”

Mr Hunt told Radio 4’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, but if we are able to make progress sooner then that might not be necessary.

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

He said it was still possible to reach a deal as a consensus in Parliament had emerged, and added that the UK Government is not ruling out any potential solutions, including a technological solution to solve the Irish border question.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The Times reported the British Prime Minister is preparing to woo rebel Labour MPs into supporting her deal with an injection of cash into deprived areas which voted Leave in the 2016 referendum, including former mining communities.

John Mann, a Labour MP who rebelled to support the Government in a key Brexit vote on Monday which would have paved the way to delay Britain’s exit from the EU, urged Theresa May to “show us the money”.

Mr Mann tweeted in response to the story in The Times: “Not quite. Show us the money. A fund of sufficient size to transform our communities. Our areas voted leave and it is time that we had the investment we need.”

He added: “Our areas need to see a fund established that is transformative. The forgotten areas of Britain who voted leave want jobs, rights and investment.”

Mrs May is due to report back to Parliament on her negotiations with the EU on February 13, with a further series of votes by MPs expected the following day.

Reports have suggested she could face a wave of resignations by pro-Remain ministers if she does not at that point finally rule out a no-deal Brexit.

British business secretary Greg Clark, who strongly opposes a no-deal break, said he would do “everything that I can” to prevent a “disorderly” withdrawal from the EU.

But Mrs May’s intention to return to Brussels to reopen negotiations on the controversial Northern Ireland backstop was met with a firm rebuff from European leaders.

In a telephone call on Wednesday evening, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told her recent events only underlined the need for a backstop that was “legally robust and workable in practice”.

Leo Varadkar (Finbarr O’Rourke/PA)
Leo Varadkar (Finbarr O’Rourke/PA)

The British Prime Minister also spoke to European Council president Donald Tusk in what was described as an “open and frank” conversation, according to reports from Brussels.

Afterwards, he tweeted: “The EU position is clear and consistent. The Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation.”

Mrs May’s strategy secured a rare show of unity from the warring wings of the Conservative Party – as well as her allies in the DUP – in the Commons on Tuesday.

However, Mr Clark suggested she needed to find an agreement that could command broader support across the House if it was to survive.

He told ITV’s Peston programme: “Not only do I think it is necessary for people to come together across partisan lines, if we are properly to move forward I don’t think we should aim for this deal to pass by a majority of one or two. I would like to a substantial majority for a deal.”- Press Association

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says UK 'may need to delay Brexit'

Update 9am: Britain may need to delay its exit from the European Union in order to pass crucial legislation if a deal is agreed in late March, Jeremy Hunt has said.

The British Foreign Secretary said a technical delay to Brexit would depend on how long the process takes.

Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt

He told Today: “I think it is true that if we ended up approving a deal in the days before the 29th March then we might need some extra time to pass critical legislation, but if we are able to make progress sooner then that might not be necessary.

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

Mr Hunt said it was “difficult to know” if negotiations would run to the end of March, but added: “Whereas a week ago none of us really knew whether this was going to be possible, we are now in a situation where it clearly is possible.

“There are lots and lots of hurdles, no-one is saying this isn’t going to be very challenging, but we do now have a consensus in Parliament.

“We can use that consensus, providing we can meet these concerns, very reasonable concerns from our friends in Ireland about not having a hard border, concerns in the EU about access to the single market.

“Providing we can do that, which I think we can, then I think there is a way through.”

PA

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