Theresa May became Britain’s prime minister in 2016 after the country’s vote to leave the European Union prompted the resignation of her predecessor, David Cameron. Now, three years later, May has announced her own resignation, saying she bitterly regretted failing to deliver a Brexit deal.
“I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success seemed high,” she said in a speech given outside her official residence in London. “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.”
Her voice cracking, the prime minister struggled to hide her emotions.
“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.”
May tried three times to get a parliamentary majority to back the Brexit deal she had negotiated with Brussels. But her Conservative Party had seen enough. The party will choose a new leader after June 7, a process that could take two months or more.
Analyst Fabian Zuleeg of the European Policy Center told VOA via Skype that “the difficulty for any new leader is that the majorities in the House of Commons have not changed.”
More than a dozen Conservative members of Parliament are expected to put their names forward to replace May. Most are demanding a tougher line with Brussels.
“The chances that the EU will substantively reopen the withdrawal agreement are pretty much zero,” he said. “Given how unpopular that deal has proven to be in the U.K., I think the chances of no deal are very high.”
Many leadership candidates say Britain must walk away with no deal if the EU doesn’t budge from its terms — among them former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, now the front-runner in the race to replace May.
May will still be in office for U.S. President Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain at the beginning of June. It’s likely to be her final act on the global political stage.