Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday she would step down on June 7, succumbing to calls in her governing Conservative Party to make way for a new leader to try to break an impasse over Britain’s departure from the European Union.
“It is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort,” May said.
May, once a reluctant supporter of EU membership, who won the top job in the turmoil that followed the 2016 Brexit vote, steps down with her central pledges — to lead the United Kingdom out of the bloc and heal its divisions — unfulfilled.
She endured repeated crises and humiliation in her effort to find a compromise Brexit deal that parliament could ratify, and bequeaths a deeply divided country and a political elite that is deadlocked over how, when or whether to leave the EU.
After announcing her resignation, May became visibly emotional as she said it had been “the honour of my life” to serve “the country that I love” before returning to the prime minister’s office at Number 10 Downing Street.
Pressure on May to quit over her failure to get parliament’s approval for a European Union divorce deal reached a critical point this week as House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom quit and several cabinet colleagues expressed doubts about the Brexit bill.
With her authority draining away by the hour, May on Thursday delayed plans to publish the EU withdrawal bill — her fourth attempt to secure parliament’s backing for her Brexit blueprint.
May will stay as caretaker prime minister until the new leader is chosen. The leadership election is likely to last about six weeks, starting on June 10, after U.S. President Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain.
PHOTOS | Here are some of the likely leadership hopefuls:
Boris Johnson, the face of the official Brexit campaign in 2016, is the favourite to succeed May. Betting markets put a 40-per-cent implied probability on Johnson winning the top job. Others tipped by betting markets are Dominic Raab, a Brexit supporter and former Brexit secretary. Betting markets put a 14 per cent implied probability on his chances.
Leadsom, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt each have a seven-per-cent probability, according to betting markets.
New PM won’t have easier time with Brexit
The European Union will not offer whoever takes over as British prime minister a better Brexit deal, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Friday.
“From my perspective, I don’t see the European Union offering any new prime minister a better or very different deal to what was on offer to Theresa May,” Coveney told Ireland’s
Newstalk radio station after May on Friday said she would quit.
“This idea that a new prime minister will be a tougher negotiator and will put it up to the EU and get a much better deal for Britain? That’s not how the EU works.”