Boris Johnson has urged MPs to “get on and deliver” Brexit as he repeatedly refused to rule out bypassing Parliament to force through a no-deal break.
The Prime Minister insisted he remained “confident” it would be possible to reach a new agreement with the European Union before Britain is due to leave on October 31.
However he was adamant there could be no more delay beyond Halloween, and that the “unacceptable” Northern Ireland backstop had to go.
His warning came amid reports voting in a general election could take place within days of Britain’s EU withdrawal, if the Government loses a no-confidence motion when the Commons returns in September.
There has been growing outrage among MPs opposed to no-deal at the prospect the Prime Minister could, if he is defeated, try to delay an election until after Britain has left on October 31.
The plan, said to be the brainchild of Mr Johnson’s controversial adviser Dominic Cummings, is intended to prevent rebel Tories and opposition parties thwarting a no- deal, but has been denounced as “anti-democratic” by opponents.
In a BBC interview on Thursday, the Prime Minister repeatedly sidestepped questions as to whether he would try to bypass the Commons and simply “dig in” at No 10.
He insisted that Parliament had already voted to trigger the Article 50 withdrawal process and that it was now up to MPs to honour the result of the 2016 referendum.
“I think what everybody wants to see, including my friends and colleagues in Parliament, is us deliver on the mandate of the people,” he said.
“I think that what MPs should do and what I think they’ve already voted to do when triggering Article 50 and reconfirmed several times, is honour the mandate of the people and leave the EU on October 31.”
Earlier, Downing Street aides suggested polling in a general election could take place within a matter of days of the UK leaving if MPs compel Mr Johnson to go to the country, according to the Financial Times.
“We can’t stop them forcing an election but we control the timetable so we will force the date after October 31,” one senior No 10 official is quoted as saying.
“If there must be a general election, then it will be days after October 31.”
Despite the apparent deadlock with Brussels, Mr Johnson said he still believed it was possible to find an agreement which would allow Britain to leave with a deal at the end of October.
The Prime Minister has so far refused to open negotiations with Brussels unless the Northern Ireland backstop is dropped from Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, something the EU side has refused to countenance.
However, he said there were “conversations going on the whole time” and suggested a new agreement could found if the EU showed “flexibility” on the issue.
“That is the problem, it’s totally unacceptable, we need change on that, once we get change on that I think we’re at the races and I think there’s a good deal to be done,” he said.
“We can’t go down that route, but there’s every possibility for the EU to show flexibility and there’s bags of time for them to do it and I’m confident they will.”