The Government's Operation Yellowhammer contingency plan to handle a no-deal Brexit is being "triggered", Michael Gove has said.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is in charge of preparations for a no-deal outcome, said the risk of such a scenario had increased due to MPs forcing the Government to ask Brussels for another delay to the Brexit date.
Some Westminster observers viewed the move as a bid to increase pressure on MPs to back Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal.
The latest development comes as Mr Gove insisted Brexit will go ahead on October 31, a stance emphasised by Boris Johnson following a Commons defeat on Saturday.
But Labour has hit out at the way the Prime Minister distanced himself from a legally required request to the EU for a Brexit extension which he refused to sign.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused Mr Johnson of “behaving a bit like a spoilt brat” over the issue and has said he believes the prime minister could be held in contempt of parliament over his behaviour.
However, despite the anger over Mr Johnson’s behaviour Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab believes the Government can get Boris Johnson's Brexit deal through Parliament - telling Andrew Marr that they “have the numbers” to get Mr Johnson’s deal through.
Mr Gove, speaking to Sky News about activating the contingency plan, said: "The risk of leaving without a deal has actually increased because we cannot guarantee that the European Council will grant an extension.
"And that is why I will, later today, be chairing a Cabinet committee meeting, extraordinarily on a Sunday, in order to ensure that the next stage of our exit preparations and our preparedness for no-deal is accelerated.
"It means that we are triggering Operation Yellowhammer.
"It means that we are preparing to ensure that, if no extension is granted, we have done everything possible in order to prepare to leave without a deal."
Mr Johnson stressed to Brussels he was only sending the communication at Parliament’s bidding.
After suffering an embarrassing defeat in the Commons over his Brexit plans, the Prime Minister got a senior diplomat to send Brussels an unsigned photocopy of the call by MPs to delay withdrawal from the bloc, with a cover note stressing his detachment from the move.
In a second note to European Council president Donald Tusk, the PM said a Brexit extension would be “deeply corrosive”.
Speaking on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr McDonnell said: “He may well be in contempt of Parliament or the courts themselves because he’s clearly trying to undermine the first letter and not signing the letter.
“He’s behaving a bit like a spoilt brat.
“Parliament made a decision, he should abide by it and this idea that you send another letter contradicting the first, I think it flies in the face of what both Parliament and the courts have decided.”
The PM’s move came after Mr Johnson told the Commons he will not negotiate a fresh Brexit extension with the EU.
Mr Tusk tweeted: “The extension request has just arrived. I will now start consulting EU leaders on how to react. #Brexit”
The move followed a special Saturday sitting of the Commons where MPs voted by 322 to 306 in favour of an amendment withholding approval of his Brexit deal until legislation to implement it is in place.
The amendment tabled by former Cabinet minister Sir Oliver Letwin was intended to force him to comply with the so-called Benn Act requiring him to seek a Brexit extension.
The PM rang European leaders, including Mr Tusk, on Saturday declaring that the letter “is Parliament’s letter, not my letter”.
The Benn Act set a deadline of 11pm on Saturday for the Prime Minister to get a deal if the UK is to leave on October 31, otherwise he is supposed to seek an extension.
Asked if he could guarantee that the UK would leave the EU by Halloween, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said: “Yes, that’s our determined policy. We know that the EU want us to leave, we know that we have a deal that allows us to leave.”
Mr Gove told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “We are going to leave by October 31st. We have the means and the ability to do so and people who – yesterday we had some people who voted for delay, voted explicitly to try to frustrate this process and to drag it out.
“I think actually the mood in the country is clear and the Prime Minister’s determination is absolute and I am with him in this, we must leave by October 31st.”
Mr Johnson had been legally required to send the letter and stressed to Brussels he was only sending it at Parliament’s bidding.
Read more from Yahoo UK:
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he would rather have a withdrawal extension followed by a general election than see Boris Johnson’s latest deal being passed in the Commons.
He told Sky News: “I want a general election, so an extension for a few weeks into which we can have a general election is a much better outcome than signing up to a treaty that becomes part of international law that binds us in foreign policy and in many, many other areas.”
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said the Government was planning to give MPs a fresh chance to have a “meaningful vote” on the deal hammered out by Mr Johnson with Brussels on Monday.
Speaker John Bercow said he would rule on Monday whether it was in order for the Government to hold the vote, after not pressing ahead with it on Saturday following its defeat on the Letwin amendment.
Former Cabinet minister Amber Rudd, who quit the Tory whip, said she would back Mr Johnson's deal.
The Government could hold a so-called "meaningful vote" on the agreement on Monday if Commons Speaker John Bercow allows it.
Watch the latest videos from Yahoo UK: