Theresa May resigns as party leader, race for successor starts

Photo: EPA Theresa May performs a few dance moves as she arrives to address the delegates of the Conservative Party Conference, Birmingham, 3 October 2018.

British PM Theresa May steps down as leader of her Conservative Party today, formally triggering the race for a successor who will try where she failed to deliver Brexit, news wires reported. May will remain prime minister until a new leader is chosen, likely in late July. May will formally relinquish her leadership in a private letter to her party on Friday, but no official events are planned to mark the day.

She took office after the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU and has spent the past three years working on the plan, delaying Brexit twice to try to get it through. Brexit is still scheduled for 31October with the only divorce plan agreed with Brussels stuck in parliament.

Eleven Conservative MPs are currently vying to replace May, including former foreign minister Boris Johnson, but some are expected to drop out before Monday's deadline for nominations.The winner will have only a few months to decide whether to try to salvage May's plan, delay Brexit again, or sever ties with Britain's closest trading partner with no agreement at all. They are under pressure from eurosceptic figurehead Nigel Farage, who has called for a "no deal" option and whose Brexit party topped European polls last month. The party made a strong showing in by-election for the British parliament in the eastern city of Peterborough on Thursday, but failed in its goal of winning its first MP.

The pro-European Liberal Democrats, who want to reverse Brexit, also performed well in the European polls, highlighting how divided Britain remains over its future.

Nominations for the contest must be submitted on Monday, and the 313 Conservative MPs, including May, will hold the first of a series of secret ballots on 13 June. With the worst performers eliminated each time, the goal is to have two candidates left by 20 June. They will then be put to a ballot of an estimated 100,000 party members. The contest should be completed by the week starting 22 July.


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