Senior UK government ministers face being ejected from prominent leadership roles as a new government embraces the prospect of leaving the European Union without political and trade deals in place.
Demotions appear likely for Philip Hammond, the finance minister, and foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, if he loses out to frontrunner Boris Johnson in the race to become the Conservative party leader later this month.
Mr Hammond has already said that he does not expect to serve in the next government and will argue “vigorously” against leaving the European Union without a deal in place – a prospect that would be much more likely under a Johnson government.
Industry leaders have warned that leaving without a deal in place would lead trade barriers that could cripple some businesses.
“I read some stuff in the papers earlier this week about how I would be a nightmare on the backbenches,” Mr Hammond told broadcaster ITV. “I will certainly do everything I can to prevent a no-deal Brexit without parliamentary approval."
Mr Hunt has said that he would want Mr Johnson to be part of his Cabinet if he became prime minister – but pro-Brexit campaigner Mr Johnson has declined to return the offer.
In a television debate this week, Mr Johnson said he admired Mr Hunt for his ability to change his mind in an apparent jibe at the foreign secretary shifting his position from supporting the campaign to remain in the EU to now backing leaving at the earliest opportunity.
Efforts by Mr Johnson to fulfil his pledge through a no-deal Brexit by October 31 – if he is unable to secure a fresh deal with the European Union – is likely to be met with stiff opposition from some MPs.
Former prime minister John Major said he would explore legal avenues to block any attempt by a Boris Johnson government to suspend parliament to stop it from blocking Brexit.
Mr Johnson has dismissed the prospects of his plans being blocked saying that that “time after time MPs say that they are going to try to take no deal off the table and, lo and behold, it remains on the table”.