Theresa May is braced for more Cabinet resignations after struggling through a chaotic day of fallout over her EU divorce deal.
Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, is said to be considering quitting after he called for the Prime Minister’s draft Brexit agreement to be renegotiated.
He also is understood to have rejected Mrs May’s offer to make him Brexit Secretary, a Cabinet post left vacant after Dominic Raab dramatically threw in the towel.
Mr Raab, the man the prime minister appointed to reassure Brexiteers, quit his post saying he could not “in good conscience” endorse a deal that broke promises to voters.
Facing a leadership crisis over the agreement, Mrs May last night urged that she would “see Brexit through” and strive for a deal the “British people voted for”.
It comes following high-profile resignations from her Cabinet and rumours that the number of no confidence letters sent to the party’s 1922 committee was nearing the 48 needed to trigger a leadership contest.
Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey also resigned, along with Brexit Minister Suella Braverman, Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara and ministerial aides Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Ranil Jayawardena.
Mrs May had earlier made a dignified statement in the Commons promoting her withdrawal agreement.
She told MPs: “The choice is clear. We can choose to leave with no deal. We can risk no Brexit at all. Or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated: This deal.”
Mr Rees-Mogg, the leader of the European Research Group (ERG), then gathered his troops in Committee Room 10 in the Palace of Westminster.
News emerged that he would indeed send a letter demanding a vote of no confidence in Mrs May, something he had hinted at in an exchange with the prime minister in the Commons chamber an hour earlier.
But not all members of the ERG agreed – Sir Edward Leigh departed from the meeting saying there was a “genuine difference of opinion” about whether to support the prime minister’s position.
He said he would not be submitting a letter to the powerful backbench 1922 Committee calling for a no confidence vote.
At a press conference later, on one of her most turbulent ever days as PM, Mrs May said: “This deal delivers what the people voted for and is in the national interest.
“We can only secure it if we unite behind the agreement reached in Cabinet yesterday.”
She said if this did not happen, “nobody can be sure of the consequences will follow.”
“The British people just want us to get on with it,” she said.
Mrs May said that she believed that “with every fibre of her being”, the course she had set out for Brexit was “the right one”. She added that the Brexit negotiations are a “matter of the highest consequence”, touching “almost every area of our national life.”
Asked if she would contest a confidence vote and carry on as Prime Minister if she won by a single vote, Mrs May said: “Leadership is about taking the right decisions, not the easy ones.
Mrs May likened her determination to stick to her course to her cricketing hero – former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott.
“What do you know about Geoffrey Boycott? Geoffrey Boycott stuck to it and he got the runs in the end,” she said.
She had opened her speech by saying: “Serving in high office is an honour and privilege. It is also a heavy responsibility – that is true at any time but especially when the stakes are so high.”