LONDON – The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday she will stand down on June 7.
Her departure will pave the way for a Conservative leadership battle to appoint a new head of government just as the country navigates the choppy waters of Brexit.
May, who has come under increased pressure from her own party to announce her departure date amid internal schisms over her handling of Brexit, gave an emotional speech outside her official Downing Street residence in London.
“I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success were high,” May said, after her Brexit withdrawal bill was rejected three times in the House of Commons.
“But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interest of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort,” she continued.
“So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday the 7th of June, so that a successor can be chosen, I’ve agreed with the party chairman and the chairman of the 1922 Committee that the process for electing a new leader should begin in the following week,” the 62-year-old PM said after meeting with her government’s Chief Whip, Julian Smith, the lawmaker in charge of trying to keep party unity in Parliament.
The United States President Donald Trump is due to visit the UK between June 3-6.
“It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.
“It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honors the referendum.
“To lead, he or she will have to find consensus in parliament where I have not,” May said.
“I will shortly leave the job that has been the honor of my life to hold.
“The second female prime minister, but certainly not the last, I do so with no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love,” a visibly emotional May concluded.
She said she had kept Britain’s Queen informed of her plans.
The bookmakers favorite to replace her is former mayor of London and foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who on Friday wrote on Twitter: “A very dignified statement from Theresa May.
“Thank you for your stoical service to our country and the Conservative Party.
“It is now time to follow her urgings: to come together and deliver Brexit.”
He had already announced his leadership bid before May’s speech.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said May had made the correct decision in resigning.
“She can’t govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party.
“Whoever becomes the new Tory leader must let the people decide our country’s future, through an immediate General Election,” he said.
May took over from David Cameron in July 2016 after he announced his resignation on June 24, the day after the referendum in which 52 percent of UK voters opted to leave the EU.
It quickly became clear that her bid to deliver Brexit would be difficult as a picture of a bitterly divided country began to emerge.
The former Home Secretary also faced an increasingly uphill struggle trying to pass her flagship withdrawal bill – the product of lengthy negotiations with Brussels – through the country’s lower chamber of parliament.
MPs shot the nearly 600-page document down three times, including once by a historic defeat, dealing a major blow to May’s political image.
In a bid to consolidate her mandate to deliver Brexit, she called a snap general election in June 2017, a year after the referendum, in what transpired to be a huge misjudgment as she lost her majority.
Disadvantaged by her government’s minority standing in the chamber, for which she relied on the Northern Irish party, the Democratic Unionists, she met growing opposition from within her own ranks as pro-Brexit backbench Tories turned against her leadership.
She survived no-confidence motions from Labour and the right-wing of her own party earlier this year.
On Wednesday, the leader of the House of Commons, Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom, resigned over May’s handling of Brexit.
The UK had been due to leave the EU on March 29 but the date has since been pushed back twice and is now set to go ahead on Oct. 31.
Euroskeptic members of the Conservative Party turned against May and deemed her withdrawal bill over concessionary while the DUP frequently stalled proceedings over their opposition to the prospect May’s deal would keep Northern Ireland in a special customs union with the EU.