Theresa May ally stamps down election talk and says it would not 'solve' Brexit impasse
Conservative vice chairman James Cleverly has denied that the Tories are preparing for a snap election and warned that a fresh poll would fail to solve Britain's Brexit deadlock.
Amid reports that key figures in Theresa May's top team are pushing her to go to the country, Mr Cleverly told Sky News that a nationwide vote risked further delay to Britain's EU exit - and said the party was "not planning for an election".
The intervention comes amid warnings from Tory MPs that they could move to block an election as a new poll put Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party five points clear of the Conservatives.
Under the Fixed-Terms Parliament act, Mrs May would need the backing of two-thirds of MPs from across the House of Commons to trigger a snap poll.
The Prime Minister's advisers are reportedly split over whether to risk an election or opt to back a softer form of Brexit - a move that would enrage Brexiteers in the Cabinet and wider Conservative party.
But, asked whether Britain was heading for election, Mr Cleverly told Sky News' Sophy Ridge: "I hope not."
He said: "I don't think an election would solve anything because time is of the essence.
"We've got Brexit to deliver. We don't want to add any more unnecessary delay. There's been too much of that already."
And Mr Cleverly added: "None of the things people tell us they want, which is Brexit delivered and some certainty for both themselves and business, none of those things would be helped with a general election."
The Tory chief also rejected suggestions that the Prime Minister had been hinting at an election when she told MPs she was "reaching the limits of this process in this House" after they rejected her beleaguered Brexit deal for a third time on Friday.
"You can read a lot of things into that," he said.
"My interpretation of what she meant from that... is that the 12 April [Brexit] deadline is pretty much upon us."
And he said: "We're not planning for an election...
"What the party, what MPs are focused on, for the most part, and should be focused on, is delivering Brexit.
"Because without that - all the other conversations, that's displacement activity. That's belly-button gazing. We've got a job of work to do and we really should be doing it."
Alistair Burt, the former Foreign Office minister who quit the government this week, told the same programme that a general election would not be "helpful".