The British government may have to seek a delay in the date of leaving the European Union beyond March 29 to allow time for parliament to approve crucial legislation, Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday.

Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking more talks with EU officials on changing a protocol in the withdrawal agreement that is designed to guarantee an open Irish border, in order to win parliamentary approval of the Brexit deal.

“It is true that if [parliament] ended up approving a deal in the days before March 29, then we might need some extra time to pass critical legislation,” Hunt told the BBC ahead of the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Romania.

“But if we are able to make progress sooner then that might not be necessary,” he added.

Hunt told the broadcaster that negotiating Brexit remained “very challenging” for the government.

But he said Tuesday’s vote in the Commons, parliament’s main elected house, when May secured a narrow majority for changing the withdrawal agreement, had improved the chances of Britain leaving the EU on schedule.
May’s immediate problem is that she has promised to hold talks with the EU on revising the “backstop” protocol, while EU leaders insist that the withdrawal agreement, including the backstop, is not open for renegotiation.

“We need the backstop as it is,” EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday, adding that the risk of a no-deal Brexit is rising.