Jacob Rees-Mogg has said Conservatives MPs are “entitled” to want Theresa May to be ousted but he is not coordinating any leadership challenge.
The leader of the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteer Tories said he was “supporting” the prime minister.
Last night 50 members of the ERG met in Parliament and some reportedly openly discussed how to unseat May.
If 48 letters are handed over to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench Tory 1922 Committee, a vote of no confidence would be triggered.
However, to oust the PM as leader, plotters would need 158 Tory MPs to vote against her.
If the coup failed, party rules dictate that May would then be secure in post for at least a year.
Rees-Mogg said this morning he wanted May to ditch her Chequers plan for Brexit rather than be replaced.
“We are focusing on how the policy should change. The ERG is not in any way an organisation involved with leadership issues,” he said.
“That some members of the Conservative Party in parliament have different views, they have not as members of the ERG, but as their own private views, to which they are entitled.”
The flurry of activity came after former foreign secretary Boris Johnson launched a fresh attack on the PM’s Brexit plan, claiming it would be “substantially worse than the status quo” for British businesses.
The ERG today unveiled its proposal for how the UK can leave the EU’s single market and customs union without the need for a hard border in Ireland.
Pressed on whether he supported May, Rees-Mogg said: “I have long said, and repeated again and again, that the policy needs to be changed but I am supporting the person.
“Theresa May has enormous virtues, she is a fantastically dutiful prime minister and she has my support.
“I just want her to change one item of policy.”
David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, also said he was not calling on May to be replaced.
“I have made very plain from when I resigned and thereafter that I think we have got a very good prime minister and, like Jacob, I disagree with her on one issue – this issue,” he said.
“She should stay in place because we need stability and we need decent government as the backdrop to what we are doing in the coming six months.”
Michael Gove this morning described rumours of a direct leadership challenge “whether it was Boris or any other individual” as “loose talk” that might undermine the mandate for Brexit.