Tear­ful May steps down

Bri­tish PM’s res­ig­na­tion paves way for Brexit con­fronta­tion with EU

Weekend Witness - - News -

LON­DON — Fight­ing back tears, Theresa May said yes­ter­day she would quit af­ter fail­ing to de­liver Brexit, set­ting up a con­test that will in­stall a new Bri­tish prime min­is­ter who could pur­sue a cleaner break with the Euro­pean Union.

May’s de­par­ture deep­ens the Brexit cri­sis as a new leader, who should be in place by the end of July, is likely to want a more de­ci­sive split, rais­ing the chances of a con­fronta­tion with the EU and po­ten­tially a snap par­lia­men­tary elec­tion.

For­mer for­eign min­is­ter Boris John­son, the favourite to re­place May, was first out of the blocks, say­ing Bri­tain should be pre­pared to leave the EU with­out a deal to force the bloc to of­fer a “good deal”.

Cur­rent for­eign min­is­ter Jeremy Hunt also con­firmed he would run for the lead­er­ship just hours af­ter May, her voice crack­ing with emo­tion, said she would re­sign as Con­ser­va­tive Party leader on Fri­day, June 7, set­ting up a con­test to suc­ceed her. “I will shortly leave the job that has been the hon­our of my life to hold,” May said out­side her Down­ing Street of­fi­cial res­i­dence with her hus­band, Philip, look­ing on. “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,” said the usu­ally re­served May.

May, once a re­luc­tant sup­porter of EU mem­ber­ship who won the top job in the tur­moil that fol­lowed the 2016 Brexit ref­er­en­dum, steps down with her cen­tral Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May re­acts as she de­liv­ers a state­ment an­nouc­ing her res­ig­na­tion in Lon­don yes­ter­day. pledge — to lead the United King­dom out of the bloc and heal its di­vi­sions — un­ful­filled.

“It is, and will al­ways re­main, a mat­ter of deep re­gret to me that I have not been able to de­liver Brexit,” May said, adding that her suc­ces­sor would have to find a con­sen­sus to hon­our the 2016 ref­er­en­dum re­sult.

Jeremy Cor­byn, leader of the main op­po­si­tion Labour Party, said the new prime min­is­ter must hold an elec­tion to “let the peo­ple de­cide our coun­try’s fu­ture”.

May, who en­dured sev­eral crises in her failed ef­fort to find a com­pro­mise Brexit deal that Par­lia­ment could rat­ify, be­queaths a deeply di­vided coun­try and a po­lit­i­cal elite that is dead­locked over how, when or whether to leave the EU. The lat­est dead­line for Bri­tain’s de­par­ture is Oc­to­ber 31.

Most of the lead­ing con­tenders to suc­ceed May want a tougher di­vorce deal. The EU has said it will not rene­go­ti­ate the With­drawal Agree­ment it sealed with Bri­tain in Novem­ber.

Spain said it now seemed al­most im­pos­si­ble to avoid a so-called hard Brexit, or clean break from the EU, and the bloc sig­nalled there would be no change on the agree­ment de­spite Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker learn­ing of May’s res­ig­na­tion “with­out per­sonal joy”.

Ir­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Simon Coveney un­der­lined the bloc’s stance that there would be no bet­ter Brexit deal.

“This idea that a new prime min­is­ter will be a tougher ne­go­tia­tor and will put it up to the EU and get a much bet­ter deal for Bri­tain? That’s not how the EU works,” Coveney told Ire­land’s New­stalk ra­dio sta­tion.

John­son, the face of the of­fi­cial Brexit cam­paign in 2016, is the favourite to suc­ceed May, with bet­ting mar­kets giv­ing him a 40% im­plied prob­a­bil­ity of win­ning the top job.

He made his pitch at an eco­nomic con­fer­ence in Switzer­land, ap­peal­ing to Brexit-sup­port­ing Con­ser­va­tive Party mem­bers by say­ing: “We will leave the EU on Oc­to­ber 31, deal or no deal.”

Oth­ers tipped are Do­minic Raab, a Brexit sup­porter and for­mer Brexit sec­re­tary, with a 14% im­plied prob­a­bil­ity on his chances. En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Michael Gove, for­mer House of Commons leader An­drea Lead­som and Hunt each have a seven per­cent prob­a­bil­ity, ac­cord­ing to bet­ting mar­kets. — Reuters.

PHOTO: REUTERS

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