LONDON - British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday announced the date of her departure, triggering a contest that will bring a new leader to power who is likely to push for a more decisive Brexit divorce deal.
May set out a timetable for her departure: She will resign as Conservative Party leader June 7 with a leadership contest in the following week.
“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. So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday the 7th of June,” May said.
May, once a reluctant supporter of EU membership, who won the top job in the turmoil that followed the 2016 Brexit vote, steps down with her central pledges — to lead the United Kingdom out of the bloc and heal its divisions — unfulfilled.
She endured repeated crises and humiliation in her effort to find a compromise Brexit deal that parliament could ratify, and bequeaths a deeply divided country and a political elite that is deadlocked over how, when or whether to leave the EU.
The treasurer of the 1922 Committee, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, said he expected May would stay on as a caretaker prime minister while a successor was chosen.
"It would be much tidier if she stays on as caretaker while we go through our processes of electing a leader of the Conservative Party who will then eventually take over as prime minister," Clifton-Brown told the BBC.
Who will succeed her?
The leadership election is likely to last about six weeks, starting June 10, after U.S. President Donald Trump's state visit to Britain.
May's departure will deepen the Brexit crisis as a new leader is likely to want a more decisive split, raising the chances of a confrontation with the European Union and a snap parliamentary election.
The leading contenders to succeed May all want a tougher divorce deal, although the EU has said it will not renegotiate the Withdrawal Treaty it sealed in November.
Boris Johnson, the face of the official Brexit campaign in 2016, is the favorite to succeed May. Betting markets put a 40% implied probability on Johnson winning the top job.