THERE is growing speculation in Westminster that Theresa May could be about to delay Brexit.

Ministers say laws that need to be in place when Britain leaves the EU are massively behind schedule, while Tory MEPs are reportedly preparing to stand in July’s European elections.

Downing Street have dismissed the claims, insisting they will not ask to extend Article 50 and that Britain will leave the EU on Brexit day, March 29.

But one senior minister, speaking to the London Evening Standard anonymously, said the UK won’t be ready to quit Europe then, with at least six essential Bills – including an Agriculture Bill, and a Fisheries Bill – not yet in the Parliament.

And even if MPs sat at weekends and cancelled their February break, there still won’t be enough time to pass the legislation.

The minister told the paper: “The legislative timetable is now very very tight indeed. Certainly, if there was defeat on Tuesday and it took some time before it got resolved, it’s hard to see how we can get all the legislation through by March 29.”

There have been claims that British officials in Brussels have informally “put out feelers” about a delay.

Adding to the speculation was the announcement of an unexpected meeting at Number 10 between May and her Tory MEPs.

European Parliamentary elections are due to take place on May 23. If the UK is still in the EU by then, it could need to stand candidates.

One well placed source in Brussels told The National that EU treaties could mean the European Parliament won’t be legally allowed to function past July 1 unless the UK has MEPs.

According to Buzzfeed, the Tories are drawing up a list of potential candidates who could stand.

“It would be mad not to prepare for every scenario, however unlikely,” said a source familiar with the plans.

One Tory MEP told the site that the party’s representatives in the European Parliament had discussed “in whispers and hushed tones” about having to stand again. “Of course MEPs are talking about what they would do. A variety of discussions are taking place about what would happen,” they said.

The Tory MEP group is due to meet May in Number 10 at the end of the month.

Though the party’s Twitter account said this was a “routine, regular and long-arranged meeting,” two MEPs told BuzzFeed News that it was not a regular meeting. “We do not have a regular meeting with the PM,” one MEP said.

Another added: “I don’t know what their definition of regular is. Since she has been Prime Minister we have had two meetings with her, and I have no idea at all why we have been invited to this meeting”.

The SNP’s Alyn Smith was cynical: “I don’t think there’s much to this beyond an increasingly desperate and divided Tory administration grasping at any straw that’s passing and throwing it out as chaff to distract from their own problems.”

One last bid to win over wavering Tories will come on Monday, with a letter from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Yesterday he signalled that it will contain assurances that the Irish backstop would keep the UK in a customs union only temporarily.

But with BBC analysis suggesting the Government is on course to lose next week’s vote by 228 – the biggest Parliamentary defeat since 1976 – it will likely not be enough.

In other Brexit news, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has told Cabinet colleagues a no-deal Brexit would make a vote on the reunification of Ireland more likely.

While on the BBC’s Today programme, Amber Rudd was asked three times to say if she would remain in Government if it back a no-deal Brexit.

The Work and Pensions Secretary would only say she was “committed” to ensuring that the UK does not crash out of the EU.

“This is a strong and great country, we will find a way to succeed,” she said. “But I do not think that no deal would be good for this country and I’m committed to making sure we find an alternative.”