London, May 24 (IANS) British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday announced that she would quit as the leader of the ruling Conservative Party on June 7, paving the way for a leadership battle for the next Prime Minister’s post.
“I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success were high. But it’s now clear to me that it’s in the best interest of the country for a new Prime Minister to lead that effort. I am today (Friday) announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on 7th of June, so that a successor can be chosen,” she said.
The party said it hoped a new leader could be in place by the end of July, reports BBC.
Fighting tears outside Downing Street, May said she had done her best to deliver Brexit and it was a matter of “deep regret” that she had been unable to do so.
“It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit. It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the referendum. To lead, he or she will have to find consensus in Parliament where I have not,” May said.
She said she would continue to serve as Prime Minister while a Conservative leadership contest takes place. According to the party, a new leader could be elected by the end of July, the UK media reported.
May, under increased pressure from her party to pronounce her departure date amid internal schisms over her handling of Brexit, announced her decision after a meeting with Chief Whip Julian Smith, the lawmaker in charge of keeping the party unity in Parliament.
May’s Brexit withdrawal bill has been rejected three times in the House of Commons.
Her voice croaked as she ended her speech saying: “I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold. The second female prime minister, but certainly not the last.”
She took over from former Prime Minister David Cameron when he resigned the day after the Brexit referendum in June 2016.
In a statement, the Conservative Party said the likely timetable for the party leadership contest was that nominations would close during the week beginning June 10, with the process of whittling down candidates to the final two to conclude by the end of the month.
Following the May’s decision, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt became the latest MP to say he would run for the party leadership, joining former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Conservative Party politicians Esther McVey and Rory Stewart.
Meanwhile, Johnson told an economic conference in Switzerland on Friday: “We will leave the EU on October 31, deal or no deal.” A new leader would have “the opportunity to do things differently. The way to get a good deal is to prepare for a no deal,” he said..
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said May had been “right to resign” and that the Conservative Party was now “disintegrating”.
Cameron said she should be thanked for her “tireless efforts”. “I know how painful it is to accept that your time is up and a new leader is required. She has made the right decision — and I hope the spirit of compromise is continued.”
On May’s decision to quit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had always worked well with May. “Britain’s departure from the European Union is a major transition and regardless of what happens now in Britain, the German government will do everything to achieve a good partnership, an orderly exit and good co-operation,” Merkel said.