Theresa May has ruled out calling a snap election as she summoned cabinet ministers to Downing Street to help plot a way through the Brexit chaos.
The prime minister is meeting more than half of her top ministers on Friday to plot “next steps”, as well as making calls to EU leaders, as she frantically tries to pull together a ‘Plan B’ following the defeat of her draft deal in parliament this week.
She must return to the Commons with an updated plan by Monday, after pro-Remain rebel MPs forced the government into a tight deadline following Tuesday’s heavy loss.
Asked if she could rule out May calling an election as a potential option, a Number 10 spokeswoman said “yes”, following reports that Whitehall was gearing up for a snap poll.
The PM can, however, prepare for some difficult conversations with her cabinet colleagues, who are publicly setting out their own Brexit red lines.
International development secretary Penny Mordaunt said on Friday a no-deal Brexit would be better than staying in the EU, despite the disruption it would cause.
She insisted May could not agree to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s demand to take no-deal off the table, as it is the strongest bargaining chip in talks with Brussels.
It comes after the Daily Telegraph reported that up to 20 middle-ranking ministers could resign unless they are given a free vote on a backbench bid, led by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Tory Nick Boles, to rule out a no-deal exit from the EU.
May on Thursday evening spoke to German chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte following talks with MPs from around the Commons, as well as opposition parties.
The PM must return to parliament on Monday with a statement about how she plans to proceed with Brexit, after the deal she negotiated with the EU was rejected by a record 230 majority.
She will travel to Chequers, her official country residence, for a working weekend in which she will continue calls with EU leaders, with time running out for her to formulate an alternative.
May will set out the results of her talks and the next steps in the Brexit process in her statement next week, ahead of a vote on January 29.