Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned the Tories will be “annihilated” if they fight a general election before delivering Brexit.
Launching his bid to be next Conservative leader and Prime Minister, Mr Hunt won the backing of prominent Brexiteer Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt.
Mr Hunt said he was prepared to leave the EU without a deal, but signalled he could extend Brexit beyond October 31 if an agreement was in sight.
He said: “Without a deal, any Prime Minister who promised to leave by a certain date would have to call a general election to change the parliamentary arithmetic.
“And that is an election we would lose badly.
“If we fight an election before delivering Brexit we will be annihilated.
“Squeezed by the Brexit Party on the right and the Lib Dems on the left. We will simply allow Labour through the middle.
“And, if that happened nationally it would be the end of Brexit.”
In what is likely to be seen as a swipe at Boris Johnson, Mr Hunt said: “We need to get real. We are facing a constitutional crisis.
“Our new Prime Minister will preside over a hung Parliament.
“A serious moment calls for a serious leader.”