Theresa May is facing a showdown meeting with senior Tories demanding she sets a firm resignation date.
The Prime Minister is holding talks with members of the executive of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs on Thursday as the clamour for her to make clear when she will exit Number 10 grows.
Committee treasurer Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown told the Press Association: “It would be infinitely preferable if she set a date rather than us force her out.
“It’s better that she does it than we have a vote of confidence.
“What I would like to see is her set out a timetable to trigger a leadership contest.”
After the talks with the Prime Minister, the 1922 Committee executive will hold a private meeting where changes to Tory leadership contest rules could be discussed, according to sources.
At present, Mrs May cannot be challenged again as leader until December.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told the Press Association: “I would like to see the 22 give her a timetable to stand down.
“And, if she does not accept that timetable, tell her we will have another vote of confidence after the European elections.”
Prominent Brexiteer Mark Francois said that a predicted poor Tory showing in next week’s European Parliament elections would heap pressure on Mrs May to go.
He told the Press Association: “As the polls increasingly suggest, we are going to have an extremely difficult night in the European elections.
“And, because they are announced on a council by council basis, every MP will be able to reverse engineer the result in their own constituency.
“At that point, I believe, my colleagues will finally wake up and smell the coffee if they have not, indeed, done so already.”
The meeting with the Tory grandees comes after Mrs May announced the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) will be brought to the Commons in early June.
The legislation writes the Brexit agreement into law and represents a fresh attempt to secure Parliament’s support for a deal which has already been rejected three times by MPs, including the heaviest defeat ever suffered by a Government.
The Prime Minister said: “What this Bill does is delivers on Brexit.
“When MPs come to look at this Bill, when they come to vote on this legislation, I’m sure that they will be thinking of the duty that we have to ensure that we deliver on the vote of the British people.”
However, Mrs May’s former joint chief of staff Nick Timothy wrote in the Daily Telegraph that it is “beyond time” for her “to accept that the game is up”.
In order to avoid a “national humiliation” and save the Conservative Party, Mr Timothy said the PM must “do her duty and stand aside” rather than clinging to power.
This sentiment was echoed by former Northern Ireland and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson who wrote in the same paper: “Clearly, the Prime Minister wants her legacy to be the passing of the agreement.
“This deal will not get through and Cabinet must remind Mrs May of that.
“Unless she accepts defeat and resigns now, her enduring legacy will instead be to have destroyed the Conservative party and, in all likelihood, to have delivered the rise of a Corbyn-led government bent on crashing the economy and, in cahoots with the SNP, breaking up the UK.”
Amid speculation that Labour could abstain on the WAB vote, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told ITV’s Peston: “We are going to oppose it.”
And Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss said she would prefer a no-deal exit from the EU to revoking Brexit.
Ms Truss told BBC2’s Newsnight: “If we face a straight choice between revoking Brexit and no dealing, we have to no deal.
“It’s a matter of trust.
“The people expect us to have already left the EU.
“And if we haven’t done that by October 31 I fear there will be real consequences and not just for our politics, but also, for for our economy.”