British Prime Minister Theresa May steps down as leader

Theresa May resigns after failing to deliver Brexit

President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May discussed a post-Brexit trade deal on his state visit to the United Kingdom. AP Photo
President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May discussed a post-Brexit trade deal on his state visit to the United Kingdom. AP Photo

British Prime Minister Theresa May stepped down as leader on Friday after failing to deliver Brexit.

Mrs May will formally relinquish her leadership of the Conservative Party in a private letter to her party.

Her resignation has formally triggered a race for a successor but she will remain at the helm until a new leader is chosen.

The deadline for nominations is Monday.

No official events are planned to mark the day.

It comes as the party suffered another blow as a by-election in Peterborough on Thursday saw it placed in third position behind opposition party Labour and the newly formed Brexit Party.

It led to opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn urging the next leader to call an immediate election.

On Friday he tweeted that the next leader should let the people decide the UK's future.

Mrs May took office after the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU and has spent the past three years working on the plan, delaying Brexit twice to try to get it through.

It is now scheduled for October 31.

She finally acknowledged defeat in a tearful resignation speech last month, the culmination of months of political turmoil that has slowly crumbled all of her authority.

Eleven Conservative MPs are currently vying to replace her, including former foreign minister Boris Johnson, but some are expected to drop out before Monday's deadline for nominations.

The winner will have only a few months to decide whether to try to salvage Mrs May's plan, delay Brexit again - or sever ties with Britain's closest trading partner with no agreement at all.

They are under pressure from eurosceptic figurehead Nigel Farage, who has called for a "no deal" option and whose Brexit party topped European polls last month.

His party suffered a setback on Friday after narrowly missing out on winning its first parliamentary seat, losing to Labour in the Peterborough by-election.

Despite winning, Labour's vote share fell by 17 percent while the Conservatives plummeted by 25 percent, highlighting the task facing Mrs May's successor.

She put on a brave face this week when hosting US President Donald Trump for a state visit, before joining him and other world leaders to mark 75 years since the D-Day landings.

But Mr Trump used the trip to speak with Mr Johnson and other candidates to replace her, emphasising where the political power in Britain now lies.

"She remains prime minister for a good few weeks yet," Mrs May's spokesman insisted, noting that any successor must meet Queen Elizabeth II and assure the monarch they have the support of enough lawmakers to take over.

He said Mrs May would focus on domestic issues, but "in relation to Brexit, the prime minister said it would not be for her to take this process forward".

Mr Trump has been highly critical of Mrs May's Brexit strategy and ahead of his visit to Britain, urged her successor to leave the bloc with no deal if necessary.

Mr Johnson, a leading campaigner in the 2016 referendum who quit the government last year over Mrs May's plan, is among several would-be candidates who say they are willing to do this.

But Environment Secretary Michael Gove, another frontrunner, is open to another Brexit delay, while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said leaving with no deal is "political suicide".

Mr Trump had a phone call with Mr Johnson this week and met both Mr Hunt and Mr Farage, although a planned meeting with Mr Gove never materialised.

Nominations for the contest must be submitted on Monday, and the 313 Conservative MPs -- including Mrs May -- will hold the first of a series of secret ballots on June 13.

With the worst performers eliminated each time, the goal is to have two candidates left by June 20. They will then be put to a ballot of an estimated 100,000 party members.

The contest should be completed by the week commencing July 22.

Updated: June 7, 2019 02:22 PM

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