Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay has warned the risk of a general election could be escalated if MPs vote for a softer Brexit next week.
Barclay admitted a series of indicative votes planned in Parliament would not be binding and could be ignored by the government.
Speaking to the BBC, he said the votes could lead to a “constitutional collision” in which MPs choose a Brexit option that contradicts the government’s manifesto.
His comments came amid reports of a cabinet coup to force Theresa May out of Number 10 in favour of a caretaker prime minister, which could be David Lidington.
At least 11 cabinet ministers are in support of ousting May and are set to demand she quits at a meeting tomorrow, The Sunday Times reported.
But Barclay stood by Theresa May and said a change of leadership would be a “massive distraction.”
The Chancellor Philip Hammond also defended the Prime Minister, telling Sky News a change at the top “wouldn’t help.”
Hammond appeared to soften his stance on a second referendum and said it was a “perfectly coherent proposition”, which deserves to be considered by the Commons.
He admitted it was “very difficult” to see Theresa May’s deal being approved by parliament at the third time of asking and that MPs would now have to choose a way forward.
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan-Smith offered May a glimmer of hope and said he was “keeping his options open” regarding her deal.
Despite rejecting the deal twice, Duncan-Smith urged colleagues to keep an open mind on potentially backing May’s deal this week.
In a stinging attack on the cabinet conspirators, he called for the Prime Minister to sack those involved, who he said were “not fit for their positions.”