- Theresa May said on Friday that she would stand down as the Conservative Party leader on June 7.
- She said she would resign as prime minister once the party has chosen her successor.
- The United Kingdom could have a new prime minister within weeks.
- Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is the current favourite to succeed May.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
LONDON – Theresa May will stand down as the Conservative Party leader on June 7.
The beleaguered prime minister announced on Friday morning that she would resign next month after failing to deliver the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and losing the support of Conservative MPs.
It means the UK will have a new prime minister this summer and a new figure in charge of Brexit.
Here’s how the process works.
May will stay the prime minister for a few more weeks
May said she would resign as the Conservative Party leader in two weeks’ time but stay on as prime minister until the party has chosen her successor.
However, before then, May will welcome US President Donald Trump to the UK for his highly anticipated state visit on June 3, as well as lead the country as prime minister during D-Day commemorations on June 6.
May wanted to remain the prime minister during this time so she would not be “undermined by the unseemly spectacle of Tory MPs and ministers scrabbling and scrambling to replace her,” ITV’s Robert Peston reported.
She might still try to make progress on Brexit before she goes
- Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
The primary reason for May’s departure is her failure to deliver Brexit.
The prime minister has twice delayed the UK’s departure from the EU – Brexit was meant to have taken place nearly three months ago, on March 29 – and on three occasions failed to persuade MPs to back her withdrawal deal with the EU.
Nonetheless, before she hands over to her successor, May is likely to try to make at least some progress on Brexit by getting the less controversial aspects of her deal through Parliament, according to The Times.
A source close to Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told the newspaper that “Parliament needs something to do until the end of July, and it would be helpful to whichever leader is elected to have some of the legislation in place given the October 31 deadline.”
The report added that May could put less contentious parts of her deal, like citizens’ rights and the transition period, to votes in the House of Commons. Her successor won’t have much time to deliver Brexit before the October 31 deadline.
The contest to replace her will begin
The contest to replace May as Conservative leader and prime minister will officially get underway in two weeks.
The race – which unofficially got underway many weeks ago – is set to involve at least 10 Conservative MPs.
Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, is the current favourite.
He is set to be rivaled by the Cabinet ministers Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Penny Mordaunt, Jeremy Hunt, and Rory Stewart, plus other senior Tories like Andrea Leadsom, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey, and James Cleverly.
The timetable for this process has not yet been confirmed.
However, party authorities will be keen to install a new leader quickly to allow the person time to shape the Brexit process before the end of the six-month extension, at the end of October.
Conservative MPs are likely to spend a few weeks whittling the rather long shortlist down to just two before the party membership chooses the winner.
The final two will take part in a series of hustings around the country before a new leader and the UK’s new prime minister is chosen.
A new prime minister with the same problems
The UK is likely to get its new prime minister at some point in July.
Incoming leaders typically enjoy some sort of bounce in the opinion polls. However, the problems that hamstrung May so severely will not simply disappear.
The Commons remains intractably divided over Brexit, and with the EU adamant that the existing withdrawal deal is the only deal in town, it is unlikely that May’s successor will be able to negotiate anything substantially different.
If the new prime minister were to go for a no-deal Brexit, as supported by most Conservative Party members, they would face a battle with the Commons, which has repeatedly made clear its opposition to leaving without a deal.
Ultimately, it could lead to MPs voting to bring down the government, and a general election would almost certainly follow.
Alternatively, the next leader could decide that a new referendum is the only way to break the deadlock. But most Tory MPs vehemently oppose that, and even the suggestion of a parliamentary vote on one was enough to force May out.
In short, the new prime minister, whoever that may be, has an almighty task on their hands to fix Britain’s political crisis, and it remains far from clear how they will be able to succeed where May has failed.