The growing divide in the Conservative party's ranks finally appeared to hit breaking point, with dozens of MPs reportedly ready to trigger a vote of no confidence over David Cameron's handling of the EU referendum – no matter the outcome when Britain decides on 23 June.
It comes after heated clashes between Remain and Leave campaigners over new Treasury analysis released yesterday (23 May), which warned that 820,000 jobs would be at risk and a year-long recession would be triggered if Britain voted to leave the EU in the upcoming referendum. Enraged Brexit campaigners slammed it as a "dodgy dossier", while backbenchers said a formal vote of no confidence would be inescapable for the prime minister, according to the Daily Mail.
Former Mayor of London and leading Out campaigner, Boris Johnson, dismissed the Treasury claims as a "hoax" and said: "These types of prophecies are just not credible. You have to ask yourself why the government would call a referendum, giving people the great historic choice, if they thought that was the case.
"It makes no sense at all. Nobody could conceivably take such a risk with this country, that's not in my view believable. I think that the whole thing is a hoax," he added.
To secure a vote, 50 MPs must write to the chair of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady. Some letters have reportedly been drafted already.
"If there is a narrow win for Remain, and he is still in office after 23 June, the only way he is going to avoid a vote of no-confidence is to name the date when he is going to go," the Daily Mail quoted one senior backbencher as saying. "If he says that, while he still has much work that he wants to do, he will be gone by the end of 2018 then that might head off some of the opposition.
"People want a date when they know that he will be gone. There is real anger," he added.
Despite the apparent unrest in Tory ranks, Cameron received a referendum boost after an ORB poll for the Telegraph gave Remain a 13 point lead. The pro-EU camp now has 55% support among those who definitely plan to vote, with Leave behind on 42%.
When it comes to all voters, Remain is even further ahead with a 20 point lead and 58% of voters saying they that back staying in the EU.
In a stark analysis of the figures, Tory election guru, Sir Lynton Crosby, wrote in the Telegraph: "Remain's ongoing focus on the economic ramifications of Brexit represents a concerted effort to capitalise on its strengths. When it comes to which side 'will create a stronger economy for the UK,' Remain leads by 21 points with 54%.
He added: "Similarly, Remain leads on which 'will create more jobs' with 48% to Leave's 33%." While Leave is more trusted to "improve the UK's immigration system", it is yet to emulate the success of its rival camp when it comes to driving the message home among voters.