Boris Johnson is facing a major Tory split over whether to push for a pre-Christmas general election or to try to get his Brexit deal through parliament.
Serious divisions have opened up among senior cabinet ministers, the prime minister’s inner circle and Conservative MPs over whether to go for a snap poll.
The splits have emerged as Mr Johnson awaits a response from the European Council president Donald Tusk to his request for a Brexit extension, which is expected on Friday afternoon.
Labour MPs, whose support for a general election will be crucial, are also deeply divided, with many opposed to an early poll because they fear Mr Johnson will impose a no-deal Brexit.
An early election would either require a vote of no confidence in the government in the Commons or a vote under the Fixed Term Parliament’s Act, which would need a two thirds majority.
One senior Opposition MP told Sky News that the government’s Chief Whip, Mark Spencer, had told MPs a potential election date was Tuesday 10 December, with a Queen’s Speech in the New Year.
In the cabinet, Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, the former Chief Whip, is said to favour trying to pass the EU Withdrawal Bill and is claimed to have told MPs a dash to the polls would be “nuts”.