On Friday, the British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she will resign, bringing an end to her struggle to keep her job despite the anger she received from her own Conservative Party over the way that she handled Brexit. While standing outside of 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister said: “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.” Overcome with emotion, May said as she was leaving: “with no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.”
After a meeting with Graham Brady, the head of the 1922 Committee of Conservative Party backbenchers, May spoke outside of 10 Downing Street. According to May, she will step down from her position on June 7. May’s resignation will trigger a contest for party leadership, and whoever wins that contest will step up as the new prime minister.
The Prime Minister’s announcement came after the polling booths became filled with Brits who were voting in the European Parliament elections. Britain only participated in the election because their departure from the E.U. was delayed until October. The results of the election aren’t expected for a few days, but according to polls, May’s Conservative Party was expected to receive serious punishment for the way they handled Brexit. According to a YouGov poll for The Times of London that was published on Wednesday, the Tories would come in fifth place, with only 7% of the vote, and the newly established Brexit Party was expected to win with 37% of the votes.
May’s position as the Prime Minister had been under attack for months, but it became unsound earlier this week when she announced a “new Brexit deal” on Tuesday. The new compromise included new measures that would attempt to bring MPs around to her withdrawal agreement, which Parliament had already voted down three times. On Friday, May said: “I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal, sadly I have not been able to do so.” That agreement, which was negotiated last year with the E.U., had been harshly criticized by Brexiteers who claim that it doesn’t properly secure Britain’s exit from the bloc. It was also opposed by anti-Brexit lawmakers who are looking for a second referendum.
During an interview with Sky News on Friday, Brexiteer MP Jacob Rees Mogg said: “The basic constitutional principle is that the prime minister has to command a majority in the House of Commons, and it is quite clear the prime minister, Theresa May, does not command such a majority.”
On Tuesday, in an effort to get anti-Brexit lawmakers on board, May announced that she would include in her new bill a guarantee of a parliamentary vote for a second referendum. It would also include a vote to keep the U.K in a temporary customs union until the next general election takes place. This attempt to get her agreement the majority required to get over the line fell back on her and it appears to have accelerated her imminent departure from her position.
Pro-Brexit Tory MPs were infuriated with the concessions. While in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, former Brexit minister David Jones said: “I have never seen such anger among colleagues.” He continued by saying: “She is desperate, she is deluded, she is doomed.” Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, resigned on Wednesday, making her the 36th minister to resign under May’s watch.
May’s agreement had also been ignored by the opposition Labour Party. Leader Jeremy Corbyn dismissed it as a “rehash” of what has been discussed in the past. Conversations between the Labour and Conservative Party lawmakers to break the impasses had broken down last week. In December, May had survived a no-confidence vote by her own backers, leaving her secure until December of this year. Despite that, the British media reported that the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs were threatening to change the rules if she didn’t resign after the elections of Thursday. The formal announcement of May’s plans to resign will add fuel to the race for leadership. In an interview with Sky News on Wednesday, Tom Tugendhat said that “the shadow boxing campaign that is the leadership campaign already began a few weeks ago.”
Last week, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who resigned over May’s handling of Brexit, said that he was planning to enter the race whenever there was an available spot. Other possible candidates include Home Secretary Sajid Javid, former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, and Andrea Leadsom, who was also a candidate in the 2016 race.
May’s resignation announcement could make things a bit complicated for Trump’s visit to London on June 3, marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. President Trump will also meet with Queen Elizabeth II. During that visit, May will still be in office. This means that it will eliminate the chance for a new prime minister to create ties with President Trump, which is vital at this time. A trade deal with the U.S. is a top priority for the U.K as it is trying to leave the European Union in order to begin making its own trade agreements. Trump has said that “the potential is unlimited” for such a deal.