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Sir Graham Brady becomes latest senior Tory to accept Brexit could be delayed

2 min read

The Tories' most senior backbencher has accepted that Britain's departure from the EU may have to be delayed.

But Sir Graham Brady, chair of the Conservatives' 1922 Committee, said he would only agree to it if Theresa May's Brexit deal had already been agreed by Parliament.

In those circumstances, he said, the departure date could be put back by a short period - probably a fortnight - to allow the necessary legislation to be finalised.

His comments, in an interview for the BBC's Political Thinking podcast, emerged just a day after Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also acknowledged that the UK may not leave the EU on 29 March as planned.

MPs this week rejected a move by Labour's Yvette Cooper to extend the Article 50 process by up to nine months to give the Government more time to finalise a deal with the EU.

Sir Graham said that "would have been deeply counter-productive because it moves off the decision point".

But he added: "I would only countenance a delay if we already had a deal agreed, it's just a matter of doing the necessary work to implement it.

"Once we've reached an agreement and we know the terms on which we're leaving, if we decide that we need another two weeks in order to finish the necessary legislation through Parliament, I don't think anybody's going to be too worked up about that, because we will have made a decision."

Speaking Radio Four's Today programme yesterday, Jeremy Hunt said: "I think it is true that if we ended up approving a 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 and we can’t know at this stage exactly which of those scenarios will happen."

Those comments echoed remarks made last week Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, who yesterday confirmed that Parliament's February recess was being cancelled amid fears MPs will run out of time to pass the necessary Brexit legislation.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph reports that one-third of Cabinet ministers have also privately acknowledged that the UK will not leave the EU on 29 March.

Justice Secretary David Gauke told the paper that the UK will have to "consider our options" if it is a choice between extending Article 50 and crashing out without a deal in place.

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