Jeremy Hunt has warned that Brexit could be delayed as it was announced that MPs’ February holiday will be cancelled to deal with the issue.
Mr Hunt said a technical delay to Brexit may be needed in order to pass crucial legislation if a deal is agreed in late March.
And MPs will have to forego their February break after Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom announced that Parliament needs to deal with Brexit.
The Commons was expected to rise at the end of business on February 14 and return on February 25 but Ms Leadsom said: ‘In this unique session of Parliament and in light of the significant decisions taken by the House this week, it is only right that I give the House notice that there are currently no plans to bring forward a motion to agree dates for the February recess, and the House may therefore need to continue to sit to make progress on the key business before the House.
‘I realise that this is short notice for colleagues and House staff, but I do think our constituents would expect that the House is able to continue to make progress at this important time.’
Commenting earlier this morning on a possible Brexit delay, Mr Hunt said any pause would depend on how long the process takes.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘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.
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‘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.’
MPs voted against delaying Article 50 this week in a series of amendments that bolstered Theresa May.
She has vowed to renegotiate the Irish backstop in the Withdrawal deal with the EU but officials wasted no time in saying they would not budge.
Meanwhile, Mrs May has been urged to ‘show us the money’ by a Labour MP who rebelled to support the Government in a key Brexit vote on Monday.
Bassetlaw’s John Mann, a consistent critic of party leader Jeremy Corbyn, was one of 14 MPs who voted against an amendment by Yvette Cooper which would have paved the way to delay Britain’s Exit from the EU.
Mr Mann tweeted in response to a Times report that the Prime Minister would ‘woo’ these opposition rebels by offering cash support for their often deprived constituencies in the North and Midlands in exchange for support.
He said: ‘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.
‘Our areas need to see a fund established that is transformative. The forgotten areas of Britain who voted Leave want jobs, rights and investment.’