Philip Hammond may be set to jump before he is pushed out of office by Boris Johnson, it is reported.
The chancellor of the Exchequer could order removal vans to 11 Downing Street as early as today, according to the Daily Mail, which reported that Hammond has told friends he is set to quit.
Hammond has accepted his time in government is drawing to a close and wants to leave on his own terms, the Mail said.
The Treasury secretary does not want to give Johnson, the favourite to become the next Prime Minister, the satisfaction of sacking him.
Hammond would offer his resignation to outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May rather than wait for Johnson to enter Number 10 and sack him, if the ex-London mayor wins the contest, Mail sources said.
Last week Hammond hinted to CNBC that he was nearing the exit, saying: “I will not continue in this role in the new government.
Instead he set out his opposition to leaving the EU wihout a deal, adding: “I want to work with the new prime minister, so long as they are focused on doing things that will strengthen the UK economy and make it resilient in the future I will be fully supportive.
“If the new government tries to drive UK over a cliff edge called no-deal Brexit I will do everything I can to stop that.”
Earlier this week Hammond said the notion of arch-Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg serving in Cabinet was “terrifying”.
Rees-Mogg has dismissed Hammond’s warning that a no-deal Brexit could cost the UK £90bn.
“The idea that we will be poorer in the long-term and even in the short-term after Brexit is a myth,” Rees-Mogg wrote in the Telegraph.
Hammond responded by tweeting: “Happy to debate scale of negative impact of No Deal on the economy – but terrifying that someone this close to a potential future government can think we’d actually be better off by adding barriers to access to our largest market.”
Johnson has committed to a “do or die” Brexit in which he will pull the UK out of the EU by the 31 October deadline with or without a deal.
The EU’s new European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, is open to another Brexit extension after the bloc has twice extended the UK’s departure date from the original 29 March date.
Both Johnson and his leadership rival Jeremy Hunt have ruled out relying on May’s unpopular Irish backstop in any deal they manage to strike before the deadline.
That saw sterling drop as experts increased the risk of a no-deal Brexit.