UK Prime Minister Theresa May Resigns: ‘I Have Done My Best’

Photo Credit: Amer Ghazzal/Shutterstock
May 24, 2019

By Spencer Feingold

UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced her resignation in an emotional speech on Friday, saying she will step down as leader of the Conservative Party on June 7.

May's notice comes amid intense pressure over the UK's failure to negotiate its withdrawal from the European Union, an issue that has plagued her three-year tenure.

"I have done everything I can to convince MP's to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so," May said from outside 10 Downing Street. "It is now clear to me that it is in the best interest of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort."

The Brexit referendum first elevated May to the premiership in 2016 following the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron. May's government sent three different Brexit proposals to the parliament that aimed to mitigate potential economic damages from the withdrawal. All three were rejected.

"We always knew her days were numbered," Daniel Capurro, an editor at The Telegraph, told Cheddar. Nonetheless, "it is a fairly big moment in British politics."

Opposition was particularly strong from hard-line Brexit supporters. In March, May first promised to resign in a last-ditch effort to appease other Tory MP's that were demanding an accelerated Brexit.

"Theresa May is right to resign. She's now accepted what the country's known for months: she can't govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party," Jeremy Corbyn, head of the opposition Labour Party, said in a tweet. Corbyn also called on the new Conservative leader to hold an immediate general election.

Several Tories have already put themselves forward as candidates to replace May, most notably Boris Johnson, the former London mayor and UK foreign secretary. On Friday, Johnson thanked May for her "stoical service to our country and the Conservative Party" and urged the party to "come together and deliver Brexit."

Other top candidates for the leadership of the party include Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart. Dozens more are reportedly considering entering the race, according to the BBC.

"If Boris Johnson actually does win the Tory leadership he is going to assume a very, very, very hard stance," Boris Schlossberg, the managing director of the financial firm BK Asset Management, told Cheddar.

"The markets are justifiably concerned," Schlossberg added, noting that Johnson has already expressed a stern willingness to walk away from any Brexit deal, which "would be very negative for the currency markets."

As has been the case with British politics in recent years, the race for prime minister is likely to be consumed by Brexit — which is now scheduled to occur at 11:00 pm GMT on October 31. The UK was granted a second extension by the EU last month following the British parliament's third rejection of a deal.

With political turmoil in the UK and the EU tiring of the negotiation process, the possibility of a "no-deal Brexit" still looms. If no deal is ratified, the UK would be forced to leave the international bloc in October with no trade guarantees or rights of residence for its citizens. The UK could, however, leave prior to the fall deadline if a deal is passed.

"I would like to express my full respect for Theresa May and for her determination, as Prime Minister, in working towards the UK's orderly withdrawal from the EU," Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, said in a tweet.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also told reporters Friday that she respected May's decision and that she "always worked very well with the British Prime Minister."