Ministers could move on Wednesday to suspend parliament for up to five weeks, which would prevent MPs from planning legislation to stop a no-deal Brexit, the Guardian understands.
Senior sources said a privy council of senior ministers was preparing to meet the Queen at Balmoral this week, perhaps as soon as Wednesday to set this in motion.
Leaked emails revealed at the weekend that the prime minister, Boris Johnson, had sought legal advice about proroguing parliament for five weeks from early September, when MPs are already expected to break briefly for party conferences.
A new session of parliament would then begin with a fresh Queen’s speech packed with manifesto-friendly measures on or around 14 October.
Such a move would have to be approved by the privy council. It would give MPs little chance for parliamentary manoeuvring, but could just about allow time for a vote on any reworked deal Johnson manages to strike with the EU27, before the crucial European council meeting on 17 October.
On Wednesday morning Conservative chairman James Cleverly confirmed the move on Twitter, saying that moving to hold a Queen’s Speech was something that “all new Governments do.”
One source suggested something like this timetable could be on the agenda at the privy council meeting.
Rumours swirled in Westminster that new plans were afoot to stymie MPs efforts to stop deal after it was revealed Sajid Javid, the chancellor, will hold a fast-tracked spending review on the day MPs return to parliament next week, promising a cash boost for schools, hospitals and policing..
The swift timing of the review came as the first major speech by the chancellor was abruptly cancelled by the Treasury with less than 24 hours’ notice.
A Treasury spokesman said the speech had been cancelled because the one-year spending review, called a spending round, which had been expected to take place later this autumn, was being fast-tracked.
Javid, writing in the Daily Telegraph, suggested he would not break his predecessor Philip Hammond’s strict fiscal rules, saying the government could “afford to spend more on the people’s priorities – without breaking the rules around what the government should spend – and we’ll do that in a few key areas like schools, hospitals and police.”
The chancellor said his economic priorities were health, education and policing, suggesting that other key areas including housing may get overlooked for major investment.
He said: “Health and education aren’t just the names of departments – they’re lifelines of opportunity, just as they were for me. The teachers who persuaded me that I had what it takes to study economics, and put me on the path to becoming chancellor of the exchequer.
“The police officers who kept us safe when the street I grew up on became a centre for drug dealers. The NHS that cared for my dad in his final days. These aren’t just numbers on a spreadsheet. They’re the beating heart of our country.”
The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said: “Nobody is fooled into believing that this is a proper and normal spending review. It’s a one off pre-election panic driven stunt budget.
“As each spending announcement is dribbled out it is exposed as inadequate and whole areas of spending needs like local councils and addressing child poverty are ignored. This is not serious government.”
The speech, which was expected to take place in Birmingham, was billed as Javid “outlining his vision for the UK economy”. The Treasury press office, in an email to attendees, said the speech was being rescheduled but gave no other reasoning.
Whitehall sources suggested there was considerable concern that MPs could trigger a vote of no confidence in the government and an early general election, which could lead to departments being left in the dark about spending plans, with budgets running out in 2020.
“We want people to be able to plan and there is a reason it is in early September because of the risks when MPs return to the house that week,” one source said.
The 12-month review, instead of the usual three-year review, is intended as a short-term measure to give departments new budgets and also free up officials to focus on preparing for Brexit.
Javid’s plans for education spending were leaked to the Guardian on Tuesday, including a £3.5bn funding announcement and plans to increase teachers’ basic pay.
However, the package also included disciplinary measures that have sparked concern, such as a renewed emphasis on exclusions and allowing teachers to use “reasonable force” to improve behaviour.