She will leave the position next June 7 but will remain as interim prime minister.
Theresa May has announced this Friday her resignation as leader of the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom. Three years after the Brexit referendum forced the resignation of his predecessor, David Cameron, May has ended up throwing in the towel for having been unable to handle the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU. The Prime Minister will make effective his resignation on June 7 to be able to receive with relative normality the president of the United States, Donald Trump, who is planning to make an official visit to the country between June 3 and 5.
Theresa May resign
“The time has come for another prime minister to lead the country,” said May, who has been his official residence for three years. A short speech at the end of which the prime minister has not been able to prevent her voice from being broken. “Occupying this position has been the greatest honor of my life, I have been the second woman to occupy the position, but I will not be the last,” he said.
After her resignation, May will remain as interim prime minister while giving the Conservative Party time to launch a competition for her succession that could last up to eight weeks.
May has met at nine in the morning (ten o’clock in the morning, Spanish peninsular time) in Downing Street with the president of the Conservative Party, Brandon Lewis, and with the head of the almighty 1922 Committee – which brings together all the deputies without charge in the Government-, Graham Brady, to communicate a decision that was taken for granted in the last hours. The committee had come to provoke a third secret ballot among its members to change the rules of the party and accelerate the fall of its current leader.
Theresa May and Brexit
May’s latest attempt to move forward with his Brexit plan ended with the patience of his conservative coreligionists. The prime minister had included in the text the possibility of holding a second referendum and of maintaining a temporary customs union with the EU to try to win the support of moderate Labor MPs. The two proposals went directly against the wishes of the hard wing of the party. Even the most faithful ministers told her that they would not support her proposal on this occasion and May finally realized that she had been left alone. “I will always regret that I was not able to move Brexit forward,” he said. “My successor must achieve the consensus in the Parliament that I have not reached, but for this all parties must be willing to compromise.”
May came to Downing Street with the impossible effort to start a Brexit in which she did not believe at first. During the campaign of the 2016 referendum he defended the permanence in the EU. He did it, however, with reluctance, and emphasized more, from the position that she occupied at the time as Minister of the Interior, the security advantages of a European cooperation that the desire to belong to a political organization of which, like many of his party mates, he always suspected.
It was found from the first moment with a double wall. The negotiators of Brussels did not give a millimeter and immediately imposed conditions that distorted their promises of a free United Kingdom and willing to regain its role in the world. The Eurosceptics of his party gave him no respite, and interpreted each step behind the prime minister as a betrayal of the cause. As it happened with the so-called backstop, the Irish safeguard imposed by the EU to preserve peace between the two Irlandas. A commonsense solution was interpreted from the first minute as an attack on the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom.
Three times he tried to get Parliament to approve the Settlement Agreement agreed with Brussels, and three times he got a humiliating defeat. His authority was dwarfed by the speed of lightning, up to 36 positions of the Government came to resign during the process, and May soon realized that his idea of using the Brexit as an opportunity to leave a mark on the history of the country was unrealistic . “The referendum was not just the decision to leave the EU, it was the deep desire of the citizens to change the country” said May at the gates of Downing Street. She could not star in that change.
Two ideas impelled May’s political ambition: to preserve the union of the United Kingdom and to turn his party into a vehicle of equality and social change. He failed in both, but he has maintained both aspirations in his resignation speech, as he presented them in his first speech as prime minister. “This country is a Union, not just a family of nations, a union of people, of all of us, no matter the personal history of each one, the color of their skin or who they love, we must continue together, because together we have a great future“ he said.
The race for succession
About ten candidates aspire to succeed May at the head of the Conservatives. The favorite, according to all the polls, is the former mayor of London, Boris Johnson. His eccentricity and lack of rigor continue to frighten many of his party colleagues, but the conviction grows within the formation that Johnson would be the only one capable, with a charisma and a popularity that no one denies, of facing the threat of the Brexit Party. The newly created formation of the ultranationalist Nigel Farage has managed in a few weeks to attract much of the traditional conservative electorate. “Theresa May has been a very dignified speech, thank you for your stoic service to the country and the Conservative Party, the time has come to fulfill the urgencies that you have expressed: to unite all of us and take forward the Brexit”, Johnson has written in his Twitter social network account minutes after May delivered his speech.
During the next few weeks, the Conservative deputies will begin a series of discard votes until they reach the two most supported candidates. It will then be the 125,000 members of the party who must decide who is the winner. The process can be extended until the end of July. Meanwhile, the calendar will continue to advance. The date imposed by Brussels for the Brexit is October 31. Nobody knows how the possible successor can turn around complex negotiations that May took three years to move forward, and the most pessimistic think again that the United Kingdom is heading towards a wild Brexit, towards a disorderly departure from the EU that can bring harmful economic consequences to the country.