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May Steps Down as Leader of Britain’s Conservative Party

Britain's Prime Minster Theresa May speaks at a EU election campaign event in Bristol, England, May 17, 2019.

British Prime Minister Theresa May steps down as leader of the Conservative Party on Friday, and the first round of voting to elect her successor is expected next week.

May will remain in the post until a new leader is chosen, likely by the end of July, but she relinquished control over the direction of Britain’s departure from the European Union, scheduled for Oct. 31.

The next prime minister will have less than five months to decide whether to try to revive May’s plan and delay Brexit again, or leave the EU with no agreement at all.

May took office after the 2016 referendum vote to sever ties with the EU and spent most of the past three years working on the plan, but failed three times to persuade members of parliament to support her Brexit deal.

Several of the 11 candidates racing to replace her, including former foreign minister Boris Johnson, have said they plan to seek changes to the deal, despite the European Union saying it will not reopen negotiations.

They are under pressure from euroskeptic figurehead Nigel Farage, who supports a “no deal” option and whose Brexit party topped European polls last month.

The pro-European Liberal Democrats, however, who want to reverse Brexit, also performed well in the European polls, showing how divided Britain remains over the divorce with the EU.