British Prime Minister Theresa May is facing a potential leadership challenge within days after 50 Tory MPs met yesterday to discuss how to get rid of her.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Brexiteers plotted to force a no-confidence vote in May, which could come before the Conservative Party Conference at the end of this month.
Leave supporters are so determined to kill off May's controversial Chequers plan for Brexit, which would keep Britain aligned to European Union regulations in return for free trade in goods, that they are now prepared to oust her if she refuses to change tack.
One MP who was at the meeting said: "If she won't chuck Chequers then I'm afraid the Party will chuck her."
It came just hours after Boris Johnson, the favourite to succeed May with the Tory grassroots, launched a fresh attack on the "humiliating" Chequers proposal, which he said was "substantially worse than the status quo".
Johnson made a surprise appearance at the launch of an alternative Brexit plan by a group of Eurosceptic economists.
He refused to answer questions about possible leadership ambitions, but the timing of any challenge to May now appears to be out of his hands.
Members of the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexit-supporting Tory MPs are planning to submit letters to Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, calling for a confidence vote.
The Daily Telegraph said yesterday that it understood that 35 letters had been submitted to Brady, just 13 short of the number of letters that would automatically trigger a vote under party rules.
If May lost a confidence vote, she would be forced to resign.
One MP who was at the meeting told the Daily Telegraph: "The discussion was around the timing of the confidence vote. There was talk of putting in 20 letters all at once so that we
can control the timing.
"The mood in the room surprised me. It was open revolt. Chequers is more unpopular than the poll tax but the Prime Minister is still ploughing on with it.
"We're now in a position that if she won't chuck Chequers then I'm afraid the party will chuck her."
The meeting was the first time ERG members have gathered since they returned to Parliament from the summer recess, and one ERG source said: "People have been speaking to their local Party associations over the summer and they have been told that no-one wants Chequers. We have to kill Chequers before Chequers kills us."
The source said it wouldn't be a surprise if Brady had the 48 letters before conference at the end of the month.
"The day after the disastrous 2017 general election result Theresa May said she would serve the party as long as it wants her, but if she survives until conference she will discover that the members don't want her any more."
May has insisted in recent months that she would fight a confidence vote if one was triggered, as she believes she has the support of enough Conservative MPs to win through.
But another MP who was at the ERG meeting said: "People were saying, 'We don't meet anyone who wants her to stay. It would be a disaster if she stayed'."
The meeting was chaired by Steve Baker, a former Brexit Minister, because the group's leader Jacob Rees-Mogg was unable to attend following a "protest" at his home.
Until now, Brexiteers have resisted the temptation to challenge May, fearing that the turmoil of a leadership election could lead to a general election and give Jeremy Corbyn the keys to Number 10.
But MPs have now decided "they have had enough", according to one ERG member, who added: "The way we exit the EU is the one thing we will be judged on in our political careers.
"Never in my wildest nightmares did I think it would be as bad as this. People think Mrs May has already agreed all this with Angela Merkel and the negotiations are just a pantomime."
- Telegraph Group Ltd