British Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed she will step down as Conservative leader on June 7. She set the timetable for her resignation, Friday. It paves the way for a contest to decide on a new U.K. Prime Minister. She will remain as Prime Minister until a new leader is in position.
The Prime Minister’s June departure, which had been widely anticipated, sparks a leadership race in her party, with Boris Johnson the front-runner. The new party leader will become British Prime Minister.
May has failed to unite her colleagues or the British Parliament behind her Brexit deal. The U.K. has still to settle on the terms on which it will exit the European Union.
In an address from outside Downing Street, Friday, she said she had tried everything to get backing for her Brexit plan, but without success. “It is a matter of deep regret I have not been able to deliver Brexit,” she said. Her voice breaking, she added: “I will shortly leave the job it has been an honor of my life to hold, the second female Prime Minister, but certainly not the last.”
May had intended to reveal her latest Brexit withdrawal plan this week, but amid opposition within her own ranks and other parties, delayed its publication. A backlash against the plan heightened pressure on May to resign.
Parliament had already rejected her Brexit withdrawal blueprint several times. “I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success seemed high,” she said. “It is now clear to me it is in the best interests of the country for a new Prime Minister to lead that effort.”
The Prime Minister had already lost the support of prominent members of her party, and several high-ranking ministers reportedly told her in recent days that they could not back her new plan, weakening her position further.
May has been Prime Minister and Conservative leader since 2016, replacing David Cameron. She has been a Member of Parliament since 1997 and was Britain’s home secretary from 2010 to 2016.
Her departure date means the outgoing Prime Minister will still be the British leader when U.S. President Donald Trump’s contentious U.K. state visit takes place in early June, and in position for the commemorations of the D-Day Landings.
News of May’s departure plans come a day after the U.K. voted in the European Parliamentary elections. The Conservative and the main opposition Labour parties are expected to fare badly.
Brexit is front and center in British politics. The film and TV businesses continue to express concerns about the impact on the sector. TV channel operators are already relocating their bases. Anecdotally, producers say some European partners have become wary about co-production even though technically it should be unaffected by Brexit.
European leaders recently permitted the U.K. to delay Brexit by six months, meaning a new deadline of end-Oct. The Conservatives outlined a streamlined process for selecting their next leader with the new person, and Prime Minister, likely to be in place in July.