British Prime Minister Theresa May Friday formally stepped down as leader of the governing Conservative party, triggering a contest to replace her that could see her party embrace a tougher stance on Brexit, news agency Reuters reported.
May, who had stepped down amid mounting pressure over her repeatedly defeated Brexit deal, will continue to act as prime minister until the party elects her successor.
“For the remainder of her time in office, she will be building on the domestic agenda that she has put at the heart of her premiership,” May’s spokesperson was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Business to remain as usual
For Theresa May, who has been UK’s Prime Minister for nearly three years since she took over from David Cameron in the wake of the June 2016 Brexit referendum, will continue business as usual for some weeks while her country finds a replacement.
She is said to exchange letters with the chairs of the influential 1922 Committee of Conservative lawmakers and will spend the day working in her home constituency, a haven she retreats to.
Once a reluctant supporter of EU, May, who emerged in front of the country from the 2016 referendum chaos as a ‘steady’ choice, stepped down with her central pledge —to lead Britain out of the bloc and heal the country’s divisions—unfulfilled.
“It is, and will always remain, a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit,” May had said in an emotional speech on the steps of Downing Street on May 23.
“It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum. To succeed, he or she will have to find consensus in parliament where I have not. Such a consensus can only be reached if those on all sides of the debate are willing to compromise,” she had said, indicating the tough road ahead for any new leader who steps into her shoes now.
The contest to find May’s successor has already been heating up in the UK for weeks. Almost a dozen Conservative leaders are already jostling to replace her in a contest that formally begins on June 10.
The selection process is expected to be completed by the end of July.
Candidates are already talking of renegotiating Britain’s divorce deal with the European Union, though the EU says that’s not going to happen, Associated Press reported.
“There will be no renegotiation,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had said last week.
Amidst the one’s contesting, British lawmaker Boris Johnson is said to be a favourite.
Johnson is one of several contenders including Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Health Secretary Matt Hancock promising to go back to Brussels and make changes to the Brexit deal.
(Inputs from agencies)