‘Extra time’ may be needed for Brexit; says Jeremy Hunt

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LONDON: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says “extra time” may be needed to finalise legislation for Brexit. He Hunt said a possible delay in the UK’s departure from the EU beyond the 29 March deadline depended on the progress made in the coming weeks.

The PM is seeking “alternative arrangements” to the backstop, but the EU says it will not renegotiate. Meanwhile, the government says Parliament’s week-long February half term break looks set to be cancelled.

Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is true that if we ended up approving the deal in the days before the 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.”

Theresa May has been talking to EU leaders, including President of the European Council Donald Tusk and the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, after MPs voted on Tuesday for her to make changes to the backstop.

Mr Hunt said it was currently a “challenging situation” and the government was “not ruling out any of these potential solutions” to the Irish border issue. He said the commitment to the Good Friday Agreement – which protects against the return of a hard Irish border – would need to be demonstrated.

The UK is due to leave the European Union at 23:00 on 29 March. The backstop is an “insurance” policy to stop the return of checks on goods and people along the Northern Ireland border.