Prime minister Theresa May resigns after Brexit failure

Prime Minister Theresa May gives her resignation speech. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa May gives her resignation speech. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The prime minister Theresa May has announced she will step down on June 7.

Prime Minister Theresa May making a statement outside at 10 Downing Street in London. Photo: Domini

Prime Minister Theresa May making a statement outside at 10 Downing Street in London. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Mrs May, speaking outside Downing Street, said: "It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit."

She said: "I have striven to make the UK a country that works not just for a privileged few but for everyone and to honour the result of the EU referendum."

Ahead of Mrs May's speech, her husband Philip May, chief of staff Gavin Barwell and communications chief Robbie Gibb could be seen standing on Downing Street.

Mrs May said she had done "everything I can" to gain support for her Brexit deal, but said it is now in the "best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort".

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"So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7th June so that a successor can be chosen."

Mrs May said that the process of electing her successor would begin the week after she finally stepped down as Conservative leader.

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She said that she had informed the Queen that she would continue to serve as Prime Minister until that process was complete.

Mrs May, her voice cracking, concluded 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. I do so with no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love."

Mrs May fired the starting gun on a Tory leadership race when she announced her departure as prime minister.

Several potential candidates have already set out their stalls in previous weeks as Mrs May's tenure hung by a thread.

Here are nine of the MPs who have suggested, or stated, they will stand for the job, including Norfolk's Liz Truss.

- Matt Hancock

The health secretary, 40, has refused to rule himself out and said he has a "strong view about the sort of leader we need".

A leader should put the Tories "four-square in the centre ground", Mr Hancock believes.

- Esther McVey

The former work and pensions secretary said she believes the next leader should be someone who "believes in Brexit" as she hinted at a leadership bid.

Ms McVey, 51, who quit the cabinet over Brexit in November, has said it is "essential" Britain leaves the EU by the end of October.

- Sajid Javid

The home secretary has said "there won't be a shortage of candidates" and teased "you'll just have to wait and see" whether he chooses to run.

But the 49-year-old is expected to be a popular candidate, with policies including his hard stance on the return of Shamima Begum, the former Bethnal Green schoolgirl who joined Islamic State, boosting his position among some colleagues.

- Boris Johnson

Former foreign secretary and London mayor Mr Johnson, 54, is considered by most as the favourite to win the leadership race.

He has already confirmed he will stand, telling a business event "of course I'm going to go for it".

- Amber Rudd

The work and pensions secretary, 55, has refused to rule out running and said she is "keeping the door slightly ajar" to the possibility.

Ms Rudd is one of the most senior Remain-supporting Tories, and has regained standing in the government since resigning in April 2018 over the Windrush scandal.

- Rory Stewart

The international development secretary, 46, began his leadership bid in an interview with The Spectator last month.

"If you want someone who really enjoys doing stuff and loves government and is really proud of the country and feel that's their thing, I'm really enthusiastic," he said.

- Andrea Leadsom

Ms Leadsom, 56, has previously revealed that she was "seriously considering" running for the Conservative leadership.

The former leader of the Commons described the UK's continued membership of the EU as "disgusting" and claimed that a Eurosceptic prime minister would have delivered Brexit already.

- Jeremy Hunt

The foreign secretary, 52, identifies as a one-nation conservative, campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum and would be a moderate candidate on Brexit in the leadership election.

- Liz Truss

Ms Truss, 43, the chief secretary to the Treasury, is among a few Tory MPs to have used social media to hint at a possible leadership bid.

She has said the Conservative party needs to "reinvent" itself.

How will the leadership contest work?

When Theresa May's premiership draws to a close, the timetable for the Conservative Party contest to replace her will be set out.

- When will Theresa May leave office?

Having announced that she will stand down, Mrs May could continue as a lame duck premier until the Tories choose a new leader.

When David Cameron resigned following the referendum result in June 2016, the contest was originally planned to end in early September that year - but Mrs May was the last candidate standing and became prime minister on July 13.

With the deadline on the withdrawal deal brokered by Mrs May and the EU set to expire on October 31, the decision may be whether to have a short race in order to give the new leader time to find an agreement that could unite a party at war with itself.

- How would a leadership contest work?

Candidates must be nominated by two Conservative MPs. If only one candidate comes forward, he or she becomes leader, but a coronation appears unlikely given the crowded field of leadership hopefuls already jostling for position.

The list of candidates is whittled down to a shortlist of two in a series of votes by Conservative MPs.

The final pair then go to a postal ballot of all party members, with the position of leader - and prime minister - going to the victor.

- How long would that take?

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, would be responsible for overseeing the contest and setting a timetable for the campaign, which would be expected to last around 12 weeks - although given the pressing need to get on with the Brexit process, that could be shortened.

A new leader is likely to be in place for the Conservative Party conference in Manchester starting on September 29.

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