Boris Johnson has warned Tory MPs they will be sacked if they vote against the government on Brexit this week.
The prime minister has dug in for trench warfare over Brexit, telling Conservative MPs that if they vote to block no-deal they will lose the party whip and be barred from standing for the Tories in a general election.
He faces a crucial week that will be dominated by House of Commons clashes over his EU withdrawal stance.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of the UK on Saturday to protest at Mr Johnson’s controversial plan to suspend Parliament later this month.
With opponents of a no-deal Brexit set to try to seize control of the parliamentary agenda on Tuesday, senior Tories like heavyweight grandees Philip Hammond and David Gauke were warned to back the government.
A senior source from the Tory whips’ office told the Press Association: "The whips are telling Conservative MPs a very simple message – if they fail to vote with the government on Tuesday they will be destroying the government's negotiating position and handing control of Parliament to Jeremy Corbyn.
"Any Conservative MP who does this will have the whip withdrawn and will not stand as Conservative candidates in an election."
Referring to the date of next month's EU summit, the source added: "There is a chance of a deal on October 17 only because Brussels realises the prime minister is totally committed to leaving on October 31.
"All MPs face a simple choice on Tuesday: to vote with the government and preserve the chance of a deal or vote with Corbyn and destroy any chance of a deal."
HOW THE REBELS RESPONDED:
Former justice minister Mr Gauke said he would be prepared to lose his job by voting against a no-deal Brexit.
He told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire Show: “I have to put what I consider to be the national interest first.”
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he had not been subject to the usual "cajoling" from Cabinet allies to urge him to support the government's line.
"I don't think there seems to be a huge effort to persuade people to support the Government this week. I think they seem to be quite prepared for there to be a rebellion, then to purge those who support the rebellion from the party," he said.
“It does seem to me they are almost goading people into voting against the Government.
"Because I think the strategy, to be honest, is to lose this week and then seek a general election having removed those of us who are not against Brexit, not against leaving the European Union, but believe we should do so with a deal."
And former Cabinet minister Rory Stewart urged fellow Tory rebels to hold firm against the government warnings about losing the whip.
Mr Stewart told the Evening Standard: “Nobody should be blackmailed with the threat of being thrown out of the Conservative Party.
“We are proud Conservatives with a long record of service to our party.
“Our demand for an orderly exit is entirely in line with the manifesto on which we stood.”
Addressing fellow rebels, he said: “Be strong, be strong, hold the line, hold the line, hold the line.”
HOW THE PLOT TO THWART NO-DEAL COULD WORK:
MPs led by Tories Sir Oliver Letwin and Dominic Grieve and shadow Brexit minister Sir Keir Starmer will attempt to rush through legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit in just a few hours early this week, it was reported.
BuzzFeed News said it has been leaked a draft version of their motion, which would give the House of Commons very little time for amendments.
It reported that the rebels are divided on whether to attempt to pass the motion and legislation on a single day on Tuesday or across two days on Tuesday and Wednesday.
A source told BuzzFeed: “Unlike Boris Johnson and [government special adviser] Dominic Cummings, we want Parliament to be involved in this process and to have the final say.
“It is called democracy. The only anti-democratic plan is the one being considered inside Number 10 to force through a no-deal against the will of Parliament and without allowing any MP to vote on it.”
If passed, the motion would permit MPs opposed to no-deal to take control of the House of Commons from the government and then pass legislation hours later.
That legislation would require that Mr Johnson seek an extension from the EU if he cannot agree a deal by a certain date in October.
With a Tory/DUP Commons majority of just one, withdrawing the whip from rebel MPs would further weaken the prime minister's grip on Parliament and make an early general election more likely.
Mr Johnson’s hardline stance was agreed at a strategy summit with senior aides and Tory whips at Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat.
A meeting planned for Monday between Mr Johnson and Tory rebels led by Mr Gauke was abruptly cancelled by Downing Street.
Former chancellor Mr Hammond then declined the offer of one-on-one discussions with Mr Johnson in the wake of the cancellation of the Gauke talks.
Mr Corbyn is holding a special meeting of the shadow cabinet in Salford on Monday to finalise tactics for opposing a no-deal Brexit.
The Labour leader will say: "We are working with other parties to do everything necessary to pull our country back from the brink."
Political tensions were also heightened after Cabinet member and close ally of the prime minister Michael Gove repeatedly refused to say if the government would abide by legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit if it is forced through.
He told the BBC: "Let's see what the legislation says. You're asking me about a pig in a poke.
"And I will wait to see what legislation the opposition may try to bring forward."
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, who said he favoured legislation to prevent a no-deal scenario, branded Mr Gove's stance "breathtaking".
He said: "For ministers not to confirm that this government will accept and comply with legislation lawfully passed is breathtaking.
"No government is above the law."
Asked if he planned to try to force through a Brexit extension beyond October 31, Mr Gauke said: "I think the detail will become very apparent in the next few days.
"And the problem is that if we don't act in this week, I think that it is likely that Parliament will be excluded from this process."