THERESA May is preparing to resign as PM this summer so she can influence who succeeds her, Cabinet ministers now believe.
Under the suspected plan, Mrs May would call time on her Premiership shortly after finally delivering Brexit.
She will then set out a timetable for a new Tory leadership contest to end at the party’s annual conference in October.
At least two senior figures in the Cabinet have come to that conclusion from hints the PM has personally given them, The Sun has been told.
Mrs May’s suspected thinking is that by going at a time of her own choosing and in a position of relative strength, she will be able to have some say over who the next Tory leader will be.
Her move will widely be seen as a plan to stop Boris Johnson, her long standing enemy, who wants a significantly different future trade deal with the EU with less links to Brussels.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, a confidante of Mrs May’s for years, is one of the senior ministers that the PM has given the hints to.
A senior Tory source said: “Liam is convinced she’ll go this summer. He says everything the PM has told him suggests that.
“She’s determined to ensure the right person follows her, and she’ll have no say at all if it gets to the stage of forcing her out.”
Business Secretary Greg Clark has also told friends he expects Mrs May will voluntarily stand down this year.
His allies point out another tell-tale sign that the PM has shown little interest in creating a post-Brexit domestic agenda for the next two years since the failed coup to oust her in December.
Then, Mrs May was forced to announce she will not fight the 2022 general election as Tory leader – meaning she must pave way for a successor to bed in by 2021 at the latest.
But another close ally of Mrs May’s in No10 insists she has given no private indication at all on when she intends to go.
The senior No10 source said: “The only person who will know Theresa’s real thinking on when she’ll step down is her husband Philip.
“She won’t share it with anyone else, not us or any Cabinet minister.”
An Autumn departure from No10 also tallies with a growing groundswell of opinion among Tory MPs across the party’s different factions.
One Tory MP said last night: “Everybody wants her to get Brexit over the line, which will be a substantial legacy, but then that will be it.
“There’s a big feeling now that she has run out of road. All her capital is burnt, both here and in Brussels, and someone else needs to pick up the reins from there with a new mandate.”