Mr Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker, leading figures in the ultra-Eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG), spearheaded attempts to trigger a leadership contest in an effort to replace Mrs May with another politician prepared to pull the plug on her Brexit divorce plan. But sources with close links to the House of Commons told Express.co.uk their prospects of doing so were looking increasingly bleak. Mr Rees-Mogg and Mr Baker are among 25 who have publicly confirmed they have sent letters of no confidence to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady – but Sir Graham on Sunday confirmed he had not yet received the 48 needed to force a contest.
The ERG published a paper criticising Mrs May’s proposals, which they claim would leave the UK effectively stuck in the EU, three days after the publication of her draft withdrawal agreement on Wednesday.
Speaking on Monday, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “What we are seeing from this Government is a deliberate decision not to deliver a proper Brexit.
“We have a Government led by Remainers who want to keep us tied into the EU as tightly as possible.
“I think the time is now, or the prime minister will lead the Conservatives into the next election.”
But one insider said: “I think to some extent Mogg and Baker have overplayed their hand here somewhat.
“I think they are finding it is not as easy as they thought it would be to get to the 48 letters.
A second source told Express.co.uk: “I actually think Steve Baker is behind all this.
“I’ve seen him in action and he is very excitable, constantly going on about the subject.
“I think he possibly encouraged Jacob Rees-Mogg to stand up there and give his press conference.”
In any case he suggested opponents of Mrs May had probably “left it too late”.
He said: “Immediately after Chequers, that was the moment, when Boris Johnson and David Davis handed in their resignations.
“As it is, I just don’t think it’s going to happen.”
With no members of the Labour Party likely to back Mrs May’s plan and with the DUP also sure to oppose it, along with roughly 40 Tory MPs who are members of the ERG, the chances of the legislation actually passing through the House of Commons were highly dubious, he added.
He therefore suggested Mrs May may be actually be hoping the draft withdrawal document “explodes” at the EU Summit in Brussels on Sunday where leaders will be asked to ratify the plans.
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, with the EU unlikely to grant any extension to the date unless Britain asked for one for the purposes of staying in the bloc.
Mrs May has emphasised her determination to get the job done – and told Sophy Ridge on Sky on Sunday: “These next seven days are going to be critical – they are about the future of this country.
“Change of leadership is not going to make the negotiations any easier and it’s not going to change the Parliamentary arithmetic.”