Theresa May announces her resignation as prime minister and Conservative leader

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LONDON — Theresa May has announced her resignation as prime minister and Conservative party leader.

In an emotional statement on Downing Street alongside her staff and husband Philip, the prime minister said she would step down as party leader on Friday June 7 but remain in post as prime minister until a successor has been chosen by the party.

May said she had decided to step down in order to allow a successor to implement Brexit, having failed three times to pass her deal with the European Union through parliament.

“I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal,” she said on Friday morning.

“I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success seemed high. It is now clear to me it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort.”

She added: “I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday June 7.”

May’s announcement followed a meeting on Friday morning with the Chair of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, Sir Graham Brady.

The committee’s executive met on Wednesday to vote on whether to change Conservative party rules in order to allow a vote of no confidence in May, with the result sealed in an envelope until she confirmed whether she would resign.

The announcement also comes ahead of the results of the European Parliament elections in which May’s Conservative party is predicted to come as low as fifth place.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that May was “right” to resign and said her government had “utterly failed the country over Brexit and is unable to improve people’s lives or deal with their most pressing needs.”

He called for an immediate general election, saying: “Whoever becomes the new Conservative Leader must let the people decide our country’s future.”

Watch May’s emotional resignation statement

The prime minister had hoped to stay in the job long enough to pass her Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which would have allowed the UK to leave the EU by this summer.

However, she was forced to abandon her attempt after senior members of her Cabinet made it clear they could no longer support her Brexit plans.

A speech by May earlier this week, in which she committed to allowing members of parliament a vote on calling a second referendum on Brexit, triggered a collapse in support for the prime minister among formerly loyal allies.

The former Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom resigned on Wednesday in protest over the contents of the Withdrawal Bill. On Thursday May was forced to shelve the bill in its entirety.

The Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, told May on Thursday not to attempt to bring her Bill before the House of Commons, with the Home Secretary Sajid Javid telling her to remove the provision for a referendum vote.

What happens now May has announced her resignation?

Boris Johnson
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The Conservative Party has yet to decide the timetable for replacing May.

Party authorities are keen to speed up the process to ensure that a new prime minister can be in place in good time before the end of the UK’s latest Brexit extension, due to finish at the end of October.

Under party rules, Conservative MPs must select two candidates to be put to a vote of the wider membership.

Recent YouGov polling of members suggests that the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson is the runaway favourite to succeed May should he make the final two.

He is also gaining ground in winning over Conservative MPs, despite his divisive reputation among many moderates in the party.

There will likely be a large field of candidates for the job, meaning that Johnson is by no means assured of making the final round.

In 2016 he was forced to drop out of the race to succeed former prime minister David Cameron after concluding he didn’t have sufficient support among Conservative MPs.

Other candidates expected to formally enter the race include the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the Environment Secretary Michael Gove and the former Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom.

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