Reports say Conservative MPs opposed to Theresa May’s Brexit plan have met to discuss how and when they could force her to stand down as prime minister.
About 50 members of the European Research Group (ERG) openly discussed “how best you game the leadership election rules,” a source said.
Eurosceptic MPs are to unveil what they say is a solution to the Irish border.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said leadership speculation was “loose talk” and urged MPs to unite behind the PM.
Mr Gove said he wanted Mrs May to stay in Downing Street “as long as possible” and believed her much-criticised Chequers blueprint for future relations with the EU could win the support of Parliament.
Leadership speculation was “like the weather…feature of British life”, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
“This is loose talk. There is always loose talk. The critical thing is we deliver on the Brexit mandate and any diversion or distraction from that commitment means our ability to ensure that it delivered is undermined.”
Mrs May says she wants to strike a trade deal with the EU after the UK leaves in 2019.
She also says there needs to be “friction-free movement of goods” with no customs or regulatory checks between the UK and EU on the island of Ireland, in order to avoid a hard border there.
The ERG strongly opposes these proposals, which form part of what has become known as the Chequers plan.
One MP present at the meeting on Tuesday evening said the group considered “possible scenarios over the Autumn” depending on the deal the prime minister did or didn’t get with the EU.