Philip Hammond and Sir Keir Starmer held secret face-to-face talks immediately before Boris Johnson became prime minister to discuss how best to thwart a No Deal Brexit, it has been claimed.
Mr Hammond, a vocal opponent of a disorderly split from the EU, resigned as chancellor on Wednesday afternoon in order to deny Mr Johnson the chance to sack him.
And he apparently met with Sir Keir, the shadow Brexit secretary, in the hours in between his resignation and Mr Johnson being installed in Number 10.
The ex-chancellor had previously suggested he would be a ‘nightmare’ for Mr Johnson over Brexit on the backbenches and has pledged to do everything he can to stop a bad break from Brussels.
But he has now reportedly already sprung into action in a bid to frustrate the PM’s ‘do or die’ promise to deliver Brexit by October 31.
The Observer claimed Mr Hammond and Sir Keir had agreed to work together, along with other pro-Remain MPs, to find a way to block No Deal.
The alliance represents a potentially major headache for Mr Johnson given he has a wafer thin majority in the Commons of just two MPs.
It came as it was claimed Rory Stewart is being lined up to front a campaign to prevent Britain from crashing out of the EU without a deal.
Mr Hammond has been drumming up support for the campaign and he wants Mr Stewart, the unlikely star of the Tory leadership contest, to lead the charge.
Mr Stewart also resigned from the Cabinet before he could be sacked by Mr Johnson who insisted that everyone who serves under him must support the option of No Deal.
Philip Hammond, the ex chancellor, reportedly met with Sir Keir Starmer last week to agree to work together to stop a No Deal Brexit
Sir Keir, the shadow Brexit secretary, met with Mr Hammond immediately after the latter had resigned as chancellor
Mr Hammond apparently wants Rory Stewart to front a campaign to prevent Britain from crashing out of the EU without a deal
Mr Johnson has vowed to take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal by the current Halloween deadline.
But a majority of MPs in the Commons are against a No Deal split, raising the prospect of an intense parliamentary battle in the run up to October 31.
The fact that Mr Hammond has immediately moved to team up with rebel Tory MPs and the anti-No Deal Labour Party is likely to infuriate Tory Brexiteers.
Sir Keir told the Observer that Mr Johnson’s elevation to Downing Street had reignited cross-party anti-No Deal talks.
‘The political direction of travel under Boris Johnson is clear and so it is more important than ever that we build a strong cross-party alliance to stop a No Deal Brexit.
‘That work will intensify over the summer, before parliament resumes in September.’
MPs broke up for their summer holidays on Thursday and will return on September 3.
The rebel MPs are considering a range of parliamentary options to try to stop No Deal.
It is though their favoured approach is to amend existing Brexit-related legislation to force the PM to seek a further delay if no deal has been agreed as the deadline approaches.
Mr Hammond and a number of other Tory MPs have not ruled out the ‘nuclear option’ of voting against Mr Johnson in a no confidence vote.
Mr Hammond is also said to have been holding talks with his former cabinet colleague David Gauke, the ex-justice secretary, on how to kick-start the ‘no to No Deal’ campaign.
‘The plan is for a huge national campaign a bit like the People’s Vote, which will mobilise MPs and voters with adverts, rallies and original research,’ a source familiar with discussions told The Sunday Times.
‘Philip is talking to people and there will be no shortage of support from donors. But he’s convinced that Rory has the most cut-through with voters.’
Mr Johnson, pictured yesterday in Manchester, has said he wants to strike a new Brexit deal with the EU but is prepared to take Britain out of the bloc without one on Halloween
Mr Johnson’s priority is to try to renegotiate a better Brexit deal with Brussels but the EU has been insistent that the terms of divorce cannot be altered.
That means he could have to pivot to a No Deal split in order to deliver on his Brexit promise.
He has not ruled out the possibility of trying to suspend parliament to stop MPs thwarting No Deal in the run up to October 31.
Speaking at a keynote address in Manchester yesterday to pledge a £3.6billion boost for left behind towns, he said he was bracing the country for a No Deal scenario.
He said: ‘On the… risk of a No Deal Brexit, or the prospect of a No Deal Brexit, well, we have just got to get ready for it. I don’t think that’s where we will end up.
‘But as I have told our European friends, we are going to prepare very actively for that eventuality in high confidence that this is an amazing country and we will get through it if we need to.’
Mr Johnson said he had ‘very friendly relations’ with other EU leaders. He added: ‘As to whether my friends across the Channel are warming to me, well I have always had very good relations.
‘I have very friendly relations with the other EU foreign ministers already and EU leaders as well. We will build on them.’
Mr Johnson also used the speech to pledge funding for a new rail link between the city and Leeds, as well as a boost for broadband connectivity and extra resources for crime-fighting.
The emphasis on the domestic agenda continued to fuel speculation the PM is keeping his options open for a snap general election, despite his strong denials.