UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans to resign on Friday, over her failure to negotiate a deal for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, according to CNN. She will step down as Conservative party leader on June 7th, but will continue to serve as prime minster until her party elects a successor.
After her Brexit legislation was rejected by Members of Parliament (MPs) three times, May was facing mounting pressure to resign.
May made a final attempt to sway MPs on Tuesday, saying she would offer a vote on whether to hold a second Brexit referendum if her EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill was passed, aiming to win over Labour MPs. Instead, she faced opposition from her own party, with her senior minister Andrea Leadsom resigning from the cabinet on Wednesday, according to BBC News.
“I tried three times. I believe it was right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high. But 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. “It is, and will always remain, a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.”
In December, MPs from her own party launched a vote of no confidence, disappointed with her Brexit policies. She won the vote, and party rules prevented another such vote for a year. Opposition continued to build, and in March, she promised to resign if Conservative MPs supported her bill, which ultimately failed once again.
May was the second female UK prime minister.
Conservative MPs are expected to vote for the next prime minister by the end of June, and the top two choices will face a vote from the party’s wider membership before Parliament’s summer recess starting July 20th.
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson is considered the frontrunner, having staunchly opposed May’s Brexit plans and even resigned from her cabinet over his objections. He referred to May’s statement as “dignified” and said “it is now time to follow her urgings: to come together and deliver Brexit.”
Johnson would face the same struggle to build a consensus, with the House of Commons deadlocked yet failing to offer alternatives. The next prime minister could call for a new general election to break the deadlock.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn applauded that prospect, saying:
“Whoever becomes the new Tory leader must let the people decide our country’s future, through an immediate General Election.”