Theresa May's aides 'plan November snap election' to end Brexit standoff
Number 10 advisers have begun planning for another snap election in November after Brexit talks with the European Union reached a bitter standoff, it has been reported.
According to the Sunday Times, two of the Theresa May's top political aides began "war-gaming" an autumn poll last week after EU leaders heaped scorn on her Chequers proposals at a summit in Salzburg.
One adviser is said to have asked a Conservative strategist: "What are you doing in November — because I think we are going to need an election."
Aides are reported to believe that Mrs May - who on Sunday urged her party to keep "cool heads" - should move away from her Chequers plan and instead run on a Brexiteer platform in an attempt to secure a Commons majority.
They believe such a move would allow Mrs May to outvote the pro-Remain wing in her party that wants her to soften her Brexit pitch.
The Prime Minister currently needs the support of the Democratic Unionist Party to give her a slender working Commons majority, raising the prospect of a knife-edge vote on any deal she manages to strike with the EU.
A source told the Mail on Sunday: "It is being discussed seriously. As things stand, even if we get a deal with the EU, it is hard to see us getting any agreement through the Commons.
"Either the Brexiteers or the Remainers would stop it. We are running out of options."
But a Downing Street source said: "It is categorically not true that No 10 is planning for an election or has held any meetings to discuss one."
The Sunday Times also reports that Downing Street has begun telling ministers that Mrs May plans to step down next summer, as they look to head off a potential leadership challenge to the embattled Prime Minister.
'HOLD OUR NERVE,' MAY TELLS TORIES
On Sunday Mrs May urged her party to "hold our nerve" and unite in the face of efforts to "thwart" Brexit.
In a statement, she said: "Now is the time for cool heads. And it is a time to hold our nerve.
"I have said many times that these negotiations would be tough, and they were always bound to be toughest in the final straight.
"But what’s also clear is that many in Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP are trying to thwart Brexit at every step and seeking to exploit this moment for political gain."
The Prime Minister said those "advocating a second referendum and extending article 50 to delay Brexit" would send the UK "right back to square one".
Brexiteers in the Tory party have meanwhile been mounting a renewed push a looser, Canada-style free trade agreement with the EU in the wake of the Salzburg summit.
But the Observer reports that a number of Cabinet ministers are firmly against the plans amid fears they would throw up fresh barriers between Northern Ireland and Britain.
One told the paper that a Canada-style deal would put Northern Ireland "in the departure lounge from the UK", while another minister warned: "Those advocating [the free trade deal] approach need to face up to the consequences for the union."
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis - who quit the Cabinet over Mrs May's Chequers plan to maintain close customs ties with the EU to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland - on Saturday teamed up with ex-Ukip leader Nigel Farage to heap fresh pressure on the Prime Minister over Chequers.
He told a Leave Means Leave rally at the University of Bolton Stadium that Chequers represented a "weak compromise" and urged the Prime Minister to back a Brexit "without dilution".