United Kingdom says may have to delay Brexit to pass necessary laws

LONDON (AFP) – Britain may need to delay Brexit to pass legislation to implement the split with the European Union (EU), Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said yesterday.

As the March 29 withdrawal date looms, the government is still trying to convince Members of Parliament (MPs) to support a version of the divorce deal it has agreed with the bloc.

Even if it is passed, legislation putting the treaty into effect would then have to go through both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

“If we ended up approving a deal in the days before March 29 then we might need some extra time to pass critical legislation,” Hunt told BBC radio.

“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.”

Britain’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt (L) and Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill arrive to attend a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London on Tuesday. – AP

The government is considering extending Parliamentary hours and cancelling the February holiday of MPs to allow more time to debate Brexit legislation.

But there are still eight laws needed to prepare for Brexit, not just on the deal but also covering issues such as trade, agriculture and immigration.

Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, had previously suggested Britain could probably secure “a couple of extra weeks” if needed.

Any delay must be agreed by the other 27 EU countries.

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to return to Brussels to try to secure changes to the deal that would enable MPs to support it, but the EU has warned it does not want to reopen the agreement.

Without the deal, Britain runs the risk of severing ties with its closest trading partner on March 29 with no new arrangements in place.