Boris Johnson is planning to launch his Tory leadership bid with Priti Patel as his running mate.
Former Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson believes the pairing would give the Tory right a Brexit dream ticket when Prime Minister Theresa May falls.
Ms Patel will kick off the unofficial campaign by spearheading a TaxPayers’ Alliance foreign aid assault tomorrow.
A YouGov poll yesterday revealed Mr Johnson was the favourite to succeed Mrs May among Tory voters.
More than four in 10 are backing Mr Johnson, with 28 per cent behind Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
Senior Tories in touch with Brussels say Mrs May must go if her withdrawal deal fails to get through Parliament at the third attempt.
One said: “She can no more present a new deal than David Cameron could negotiate Brexit after he lost the EU referendum.”
If the PM’s deal does go through, she will ask the EU for a delay until June 30.
A Conservative Party source said she would have to be replaced for the bloc to grant a longer extension of up to two years. Senior Tories say once the PM has completed phase one of Brexit, leaving the EU, they will not allow her to negotiate phase two, a new free trade deal.
One said: “It would take six Cabinet ministers to make clear her time is up.”
Ms Patel was forced to quit the Cabinet in November 2017 over unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is seen as frontrunner to succeed Mrs May as he could unite Leavers and Remainers.
Gaffe-prone Mr Johnson’s standing has fallen with MPs but if he can battle through to the final two contenders, party members will decide who wins.
MP Nick Boles has quit his Conservative association, which planned to deselect him for opposing a No Deal Brexit.
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