LONDON — UK Prime Minister Theresa May has announced she will resign as Conservative Party leader on June 7, following a furious backlash to her last-ditch Brexit plan.
Speaking outside Downing Street on Friday morning, May said: “I have done my best.
“It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit,” she said.
Her voice cracked with emotion as she said it had been the “honor of my life” to serve “the country that I love.”
May will remain as prime minister while the party holds a leadership contest, with her successor expected to be in place by the end of the summer.
May was finally ousted following a cabinet revolt over her decision to offer members of Parliament (MPs) a vote on whether to hold a second referendum.
The prime minister’s husband Philip May, chief of staff Gavin Barwell and communications chief Robbie Gibb watched her deliver her resignation speech outside No. 10.
Boris Johnson, the Brexiteer former foreign secretary, is currently seen as the frontrunner to replace her.
But several other senior Tories, including ex-Brexit Secretary Dominc Raab, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Environment Secretary Michael Gove are all expected to throw their hat into the ring.
Ken Clarke, the former Tory chancellor and veteran MP, predicted the contest would be “six weeks of chaos.”
Andrea Leadsom, whose resignation as House of Commons leader signaled the end of May’s time in office, praised May’s “dignified speech” as an “illustration of her total commitment to country and duty.”
Steve Baker, a leading Tory Brexit-supporting lawmaker who led efforts to oust May, said it was a “sad but necessary day.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said the prime minister had “shown great courage.”
“She is a public servant who did all she could to bring Brexit to a resolution. Her sense of duty is something everyone should admire and aspire to,” she said.
And Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, said May “has acted with dignity and honor in pursuit of what she believes to be in the national interest, the hallmark of her time in public life.”
How The Leadership Contest Works
The timetable for the leadership contest is set by the 1922 committee of Tory lawmakers, and they have confirmed that the deadline for nominations is the week commencing June 10.
Candidates must be nominated by at least two Conservative MPs.
If only one candidate comes forward, he or she becomes leader, but with so many people possibly in the running, a coronation of this kind is highly unlikely.
The list of candidates will be whittled down to a shortlist of two in a series of votes by Conservative MPs.
MPs’ votes should be concluded by the end of June, the party has said.
The final pair then go to a postal ballot of all party members, with the position of leader – and prime minister – going to the victor.
A new leader will be in place by mid-July, before the Conservative Party conference in Manchester starts Sept. 29.
― Rachel Wearmouth
This story has been updated with details on the leadership contest.