LONDON: Her voice breaking, Prime Minister Theresa May announced her resignation on Friday after three years of Brexit turmoil, dramatically increasing the likelihood of Britain crashing out of the EU within months.
May, who took over in the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum, was forced to make way following a Conservative mutiny over her ill-fated strategy to end Britain’s near five-decade membership of the European Union.
“It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit,” May said outside her Downing Street office, holding back tears.
May will remain in Downing Street in a caretaker role until a replacement is elected by the party before July 20
“It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum.” May, 62, who will be among the country’s shortest-serving post-WWII prime ministers remembered for presiding over one of the most chaotic periods in its modern political history, said she would step down as head of the Conservative Party on June 7.
She will remain in Downing Street in a caretaker role until a replacement is elected by the party before July 20. Any new leader of the party, which won the most votes in the last election, automatically becomes prime minister.
Gaffe-prone Brexit cheerleader Boris Johnson, who resigned as foreign secretary last summer over May’s withdrawal strategy, is the immediate front-runner to succeed her.
He said on Friday that under his leadership Britain would leave the EU with or without a deal on October 31 — the latest deadline agreed with Brussels after Brexit was twice delayed.
“The way to get a good deal is to prepare for a no-deal situation,” he told an economic conference in Switzerland, according to Bloomberg. “To get things done you need to be prepared to walk away.” However, EU leaders struck a defiantly contrasting tone.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the withdrawal plan agreed was “not up for renegotiation”.
Spain said a no-deal departure now appeared “near impossible to stop” while Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned the Brexit saga was entering “a phase that may be a very dangerous one for Ireland”.
The pound wobbled after she spoke, as analysts said her imminent departure amplified uncertainty.
“The prime minister’s resignation also increases the risk of a no-deal Brexit,” said Sarah Carlson, of Moody’s. May was pushed into the humiliating spectacle of a hastily arranged resignation announcement following a meeting with the Conservative Party’s committee chief in charge of leadership elections.
She had been under rising pressure following months of Brexit-fuelled political paralysis, which intensified following disastrous results in the May 2 English local elections.
The Conservatives are expected to fare similarly badly in this week’s European Parliament elections when results are announced on Sunday.
“Politically she misjudged the mood of the country and her party,” said Nigel Farage, whose new Brexit Party is predicted to win the contest in Britain emphatically.
The beleaguered leader had previously vowed to step aside once her unpopular EU divorce deal had passed parliament, and this week launched a short-lived bid for lawmakers to approve it in early June.
Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2019