European leaders are juggling Britain’s immediate future today as they discuss how long to keep the country within the EU.
French president Emmanuel Macron is leading a group of rebels who want a Brexit extension of as little as 15 days after Boris Johnson was forced by MPs to hand control to Brussels.
Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain are said to back Mr Macron – with the Netherlands reportedly drifting towards this position.
Germany and Ireland however, are among the countries that are more relaxed about the idea of a three month delay proposed by European Council president Donald Tusk.
It came amid reported splits within Mr Johnson’s Cabinet over whether to use the Brextension for a general election or a second attempt to get his Withdrawal Agreement Bill (Wab) through Parliament
It is thought the Prime Minister will lay down the gauntlet to Jeremy Corbyn as soon as the EU grant another Brexit extension, a decision expected tomorrow.
Mr Johnson could put forward a motion under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act as early as tonight, according to The Times, leading to a potential election on December 5.
But Mr Johnson is facing mounting Tory resistance, with some believing his chief adviser Dominic Cummings is driving him towards the polls, whereas the PM might be more inclined to plough on with Brexit.
And Jeremy Corbyn is dithering over whether to back a pre-Christmas election last night – as Labour MPs warned him the party would get ‘smashed’ at the polls.
Mr Corbyn, who turned down the chance of an election three times last month, claimed this month he was ‘champing at the bit’ to go to the polls as soon as a fresh Brexit delay was in place.
But yesterday his spokesman refused to say if Labour would vote for an election next week, even if Brexit has been delayed until the end of January, which rules out the risk of an immediate No Deal.
And sources said more than half of Labour MPs had told the party’s whips they would not vote for an election now, even if Mr Corbyn ordered them to.
One shadow Cabinet minister told MailOnline: ‘It is awful. He could try, but he probably won’t have the numbers to get it over the line anyway. It just doesn’t stack up.
The shadow minister predicted that the leadership will wait till the last possible moment and hope events save them from having to make a decision.
‘In principle an Opposition should always be wanting to face the electorate. That is pretty much our only reason for being.
‘But a lot of people are scared of what will happen. Splitting the party that badly would be the nightmare.
‘What is our excuse for not wanting an election? Once we have the extension, what are we going to say?’
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey was asked this morning if Labour would vote for a general election as soon as the Prime Minister asks for one after the EU grants an extension.
She told the Today programme: ‘That’s our position. But we also want the Prime Minister to look at the compromise that’s been offered that a lot of MPs support, and that’s the ability to be able to properly scrutinise the Bill.’
Mr Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief adviser, is reportedly leading calls to abandon attempts to get the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal through Parliament and go for an election.
But Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith is said to be among ministers arguing it is still possible to pass a bill ratifying the agreement, despite Tuesday’s defeat for Mr Johnson’s attempt to fast-track it through the Commons.
There are fears among Conservatives that if there is an election before the UK has left the EU, it will play into the hands of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
Even if Mr Johnson does decide to press for an early election there is no guarantee that he will succeed.
Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act he would need a ‘super majority’ of two-thirds of all MPs to call an election which would require Labour support.
Tory Party chairman James Cleverly kept his options this morning, saying it was still possible to leave on October 31, without revealing how.
He told the Today Programme: ‘We’ve been calling for a general election, me personally, the Prime Minister at the ballot box, my friends and colleagues all around the country, for months now.
‘The Labour Party are running scared and I can completely understand why, their Brexit message is confused at best.’
He added that the Government has had to ‘ramp up’ its no-deal preparations because ‘the EU has not agreed an extension and therefore it is absolutely essential that we make sure that we are ready to leave’.
Mr Cummings reportedly banging his fist in fury during a meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn when the PM suggested a compromise to the Brexit timetable.
After Labour blocked Mr Johnson’s fast-track Brexit timetable on Tuesday night, it was alleged that Mr Johnson had asked Mr Corbyn how long it might take to get the deal passed, at which point, according to The Telegraph, Mr Cummings furiously shouted, ‘No!’
No10 doused the claims as ‘utter nonsense’ and added that the meeting with the Opposition leader was ‘a total waste of time.’