June 16, 2019
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European Union

Theresa May officially steps down as UK PM

London, June 7 (efe-epa).- The United Kingdom's Prime Minister Theresa May has on Friday signed a letter of resignation as leader of the Conservative Party.

She will remain as acting prime minister until the election of her successor, a process which is scheduled to take place at the end of July.

Her departure will pave the way for a Conservative leadership battle to appoint a new head of government just as the country navigates an increasingly tense Brexit deadlock.

There are 11 MPs who have announced they will stand to replace her as party leader and prime minister.

Each candidate needs eight other MPs to endorse them and will then hold a series of secret ballots on 13, 18, 19 and 20 June.

The final two contenders will be put to a vote of members of the wider Conservative Party from 22 June and the winner is expected to be announced about four weeks later.

May announced her intention to resign on May 24 after almost three years at Number 10 Downing Street.

She had come under increasing pressure from her own party to announce her departure date amid internal schisms over her handling of the UK’s exit from the European Union.

May eventually threw in the towel after the UK reached a Brexit impasse, with the House of Commons failing to support her withdrawal deal three times.

She gave an emotional speech outside her official Downing Street residence in London two weeks ago.

"It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit," the 62-year-old said.

"It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honors the referendum."

She added: "I will shortly leave the job that has been the honor 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," a visibly tearful May concluded.

The bookmakers' favorite to replace her is former mayor of London and foreign secretary, Boris Johnson.

He wrote on Twitter the day she announced her resignation: "A very dignified statement from Theresa May.

"Thank you for your stoical service to our country and the Conservative Party.

"It is now time to follow her urgings: to come together and deliver Brexit."

He had already announced his leadership bid before May's speech.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, has called for the country to hold another general election.

“Today Theresa May steps down as the Tory Party leader,” he tweeted on Friday.

“The next Prime Minister should not be chosen by a handful of unrepresentative Tory party members.

“Whoever becomes the new Tory leader must let the people decide our country’s future, through an immediate General Election.”

May took over from David Cameron in July 2016 after he announced his resignation on June 24, the day after the referendum in which 52 percent of UK voters opted to leave the EU.

It quickly became clear that her bid to deliver Brexit would be difficult as a picture of a bitterly divided country began to emerge.

The former Home Secretary also faced an increasingly uphill struggle trying to pass her flagship withdrawal bill – the product of lengthy negotiations with Brussels – through the country's lower chamber of parliament.

MPs shot the nearly 600-page document down three times, including once by a historic defeat, dealing a major blow to May's political image.

In a bid to consolidate her mandate to deliver Brexit, she called a snap general election in June 2017, a year after the referendum, in what transpired to be a huge misjudgment as she lost her majority.

Disadvantaged by her government's minority standing in the chamber, for which she relied on the Northern Irish party, the Democratic Unionists, she met growing opposition from within her own ranks as pro-Brexit backbench Tories turned against her leadership.

She survived no-confidence motions from Labour and the right-wing of her own party earlier this year.

On Wednesday, the leader of the House of Commons, Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom, resigned over May's handling of Brexit.

The UK had been due to leave the EU on Mar. 29 but the date has since been pushed back twice and is now set to go ahead on Oct. 31.

Euroskeptic members of the Conservative Party turned against May and deemed her withdrawal bill over concessionary while the DUP frequently stalled proceedings over their opposition to the prospect May's deal would keep Northern Ireland in a special customs union with the EU. EFE-EPA

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Related content

Theresa May, the UK's outgoing prime minister

By Rachael Burnett

Madrid Desk, June 6 (efe-epa).- Theresa May quit as prime minister of the United Kingdom on Friday after leading the country for almost three years during some of the most turbulent times in its political history.

She was the UK’s second female prime minister and took over as leader of the Conservative Party after her predecessor David Cameron stepped down in July 2016.

The fallout from the Brexit referendum has dominated May’s time at Number 10 Downing Street.

The daughter of a Church of England vicar, Theresa Brasier was born on Oct. 1, 1956, in Eastbourne, Sussex, in England.

From a young age she reportedly told friends that her ambition was to become the first woman prime minister.

It was in her third year at Oxford University that she met her future husband, Philip May, whom she married in 1980.

University friend Pat Frankland told BBC Radio 4 in 2011: "I cannot remember a time when she did not have political ambitions.

"She did want to become the first woman prime minister and she was quite irritated when Margaret Thatcher got there first."

May’s political career started in 1986 when she became councilor for the London borough of Merton.

She was elected as Conservative MP for the Maidenhead constituency in 1997 and has held the seat ever since.

She held a number of shadow cabinet positions between 1999 and 2005 and in 2002 she became the first woman to chair the Conservative Party.

She spoke in favor of modernizing the Tories and famously described them as the “nasty party.”

May was named home secretary in 2010 and became the second longest serving in the past 100 years.

Some of her policies were controversial, including criticism of the police and a pledge to lower net immigration.

Former Lib Dem minister David Laws described her in his memoirs, saying: "I first met her in 2010. I was sitting in my Treasury office, overlooking St James's Park, me in one armchair and the home secretary in the other, with no officials present. She looked nervous.

"I felt she was surprised to find herself as home secretary. Frankly, I didn't expect her to last more than a couple of years."

May has never revealed much about her personal life but in 2013 announced that she had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and would need insulin injections.

During her time as an MP she backed same-sex marriage, expressed a view in 2012 that the legal limit on abortion should be lowered from 24 to 20 weeks and voted against an outright ban on fox hunting.

May won the Tory leadership race after Cameron resigned and became prime minister on July 13, 2016.

At 59, she was the oldest leader to enter Downing Street since James Callaghan in 1976 and the first prime minister since Ted Heath who does not have children.

On Mar. 29, 2017, May invoked Article 50 and promised to carry out Brexit negotiations “constructively and respectfully, in a spirit of sincere cooperation.”

Less than a month later she called a snap election which led to her government losing its majority.

She was forced to strike a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.

By November 2018 May arrived at a Brexit agreement with the EU.

She took her deal to MPs on Jan. 15 where she took a blow with the largest defeat in UK democratic history and shortly after she survived a vote of no confidence.

Her deal was rejected twice more, which eventually led her to offer to resign if MPs would back it.

In an emotional speech on May 24 she announced that she will stand down on June 7. EFE-EPA

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