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Theresa May admits no-deal preparations being stepped up by the day as she brushes off leadership challenge talk

Preparations for a no-deal Brexit are being stepped up by the day, Theresa May has said as she brushed off speculation about a leadership challenge.

The prime minister said that contingency planning for no-deal had been increased in "recent days", a day after the government deferred a crucial Commons vote on Mrs May's Brexit deal.

On Tuesday, Mrs May arrived in the Netherlands for meetings with European leaders in a bid to gain assurances over the Irish backstop issue.

But with time running out until the leaving date in March 2019, the prime minister conceded that no-deal is becoming a greater part of planning.

It comes after EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker warned there was "no room" to negotiate the Withdrawal Agreement.

Mrs May said: "We have already stepped up the no-deal preparations. That has been happening in recent days.

"Cabinet will be discussing what is the sensible thing for government to do, which is to make sure that those contingency arrangements of no-deal preparations are in place.

"So we will be looking at what further more we need to do in relation to those no-deal preparations."

Theresa May greets Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte. Credit: AP

Mrs May has found herself under renewed pressure over her decision to delay the Brexit vote.

On Tuesday, she did not indicate when the deferred vote may take place, though it is expected before January 21.

Since that decision rumours have swirled that the Conservative Party's 1922 Committee has almost received the 48 letters required to trigger a no-confidence vote.

  • ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston reports from Westminster

But responding to this, Mrs May said that she was focussed on raising concerns about the Irish backstop with European leaders.

So far on her tour of Europe the prime minister has with Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and German chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Wednesday, Mrs May will travel to Dublin to meet with Taioseach Leo Varadkar and following this she will fly to Brussels ahead of the European Council meeting on Thursday.

Mrs May is also planning to speak by phone with Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Tuesday afternoon.

The prime minister also had discussions with German chancellor Angela Merkel. Credit: AP

Asked about a possible leadership challenge, Mrs May said: "No, I have been here in Europe dealing with the issue I have promised Parliament I would be dealing with."

She added: "Whatever outcome we want, whatever relationship we want with the European Union in future, there is no deal available that doesn’t have a backstop within it.

"But we don’t want the backstop to be used and if it is want to be certain it is only temporary."

Donald Tusk, who also met Mrs May on Tuesday, tweeted that he had held a "frank" discussion with her.

The EU Council leader said: "Long and frank discussion with PM Theresa May ahead of Brexit summit. Clear that EU27 wants to help. The question is how."

It is unclear if Labour will attempt triggering a no-confidence vote. Credit: PA

Meanwhile, shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman has claimed that Labour plans to call a no-confidence vote in Mrs May and her government before Christmas.

These claims have not been backed up by other Labour sources.

Tory MP Nicky Morgan has called for a government of "national unity" to help "hammer out" a Brexit deal.

Mrs Morgan floated the idea or a free vote as she urged MPs to "build a consensus".

"Maybe it's time for some sort of Government of national unity, maybe it's time for a free vote in an eventual vote on the deal avoiding usual party political constraints," she told the House of Commons.