Senior backbencher Sir Graham Brady today told the BBC that he might accept a delay to Brexit, as long as a withdrawal agreement has already been agreed.
The idea of extending the March 29 exit date has been thrown around before, and now it looks like it might happen so that Brexit legislation can be passed through Parliament. The European Union, however, is concerned that Theresa May might be leading the UK towards No Deal by not taking the opportunity to ask for the Brexit delay they think she needs.
According to The Guardian, senior figures in Brussels have been wargaming the next steps by the British government, and they think a delay to the 29th March leaving date is inevitable. However, Brussels officials fear that May’s “day to day” approach to surviving this negotiation might just mean things go wrong at the last minute.
The government says that their position on the date hasn’t changed, but even Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt today said that extra time might be required to get the deal done.
It seems likely to me, too. The Brexit date of March 29 doesn’t necessarily mean that the legislation is done and dusted, and passed through Parliament – it simply requires that the deal is in place and we’re on track to leave on mutually agreeable conditions. Assuming, of course, that the EU wants to play ball.
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Hunt said:
“It is true that if we ended up approving the 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.”
A number of alternatives already exist that could replace the Irish backstop – from a “trusted trader” scheme that could negate the need for border checks on the island of Ireland, to pre-destination customs checks. But the EU isn’t interested.
May’s intention to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement was immediately shot down by the EU, and I doubt that’s going to change any time soon.
So…yeah. Brexit could well be delayed.