United Kingdom Prime Minister, Theresa May, yesterday, announced her resignation after weeks of deadlock and chaos surrounding several failed attempts to push her EU Withdrawal Agreement through parliament.
May said she will step down as UK Conservative leader on June 7, the move came after a meeting with the chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of her Conservative party backbenchers.
Discontent had been rife within her own party, growing to unsustainable levels this week, with several key government and backbench figures calling for her ousting.
May’s days were numbered after concessions made to opposition politicians over her Brexit deal failed to win support among opponents, and left her own allies feeling betrayed.
Andrea Leadsom, a key ally in May’s Cabinet, resigned on Wednesday night, and several senior figures were said to have had “frank” discussions with her on Thursday.
May’s resignation looks likely to make Britain’s looming departure from the EU even more difficult, with some suggesting a hard or “no-deal” Brexit is now almost inevitable.
Meanwhile, UK politicians and leaders have reacted to May’s resignation.
The European Union said the resignation does nothing to change its position on the Brexit withdrawal deal agreed with Britain.
EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, noted May’s decision “without personal joy”, a spokeswoman said, adding that the council of EU leaders has “set out its position” on the Brexit deal.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, tweeted that he “would like to express my full respect for @theresa_may and for her determination, as Prime Minister, in working towards the #UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU”.
One of the leading contenders to succeed May, Britain’s former foreign minister, Boris Johnson, tweeted: “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.”
French President, Emmanuel Macron, hailed May for her “courageous work” in seeking to implement Brexit in the interests of her country while showing respect for Britain’s European partners.
But the Elysee statement added: “The principles of the EU will continue to apply, with the priority on the smooth functioning of the EU, and this requires a rapid clarification.”
“At a time of an important choice, votes of rejection that do not offer an alternative project will lead to an impasse.”
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, noted May’s decision “with respect”, saying they shared a “good and trusting” working relationship, according to her spokeswoman.
Pledging to keep working with May in the same spirit as long as she is in office, Merkel noted Berlin “wishes to maintain close cooperation and a close relationship with the British government”, spokeswoman Martina Fietz said.
Fietz declined to comment on how the resignation could affect Brexit, as “the development depends essentially on domestic political developments in Britain”.
– ‘Misjudged The Mood’ –
Anti-EU populist, Nigel Farage, whose Brexit Party is leading opinion polls in Britain, blamed May for misjudging the mood of her country by trying to preserve close trade ties with the bloc.
“It is difficult not to feel for Mrs May, but politically, she misjudged the mood of the country and her party. Two Tory leaders have now gone whose instincts were pro-EU,” he wrote in a tweet, referring to May and her predecessor David Cameron.
– ‘Very Difficult Period’ –
In Moscow, the Kremlin said that May’s premiership has been a very difficult time for Russia’s relations with Britain.
“Mrs May’s stint as prime minister has come during a very difficult period in our bilateral relations,” said President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
– ‘Impossible To Stop’ –
The Madrid government warned that a no-deal Brexit now appears almost inevitable.
“Under these circumstances, a hard Brexit appears to be a reality that is near impossible to stop,” Spanish government spokeswoman, Isabel Celaa, told reporters, adding that the British government and parliament would be “solely responsible for a no-deal exit (from the EU) and its consequences”.
– Pound Wobbles –
On the financial markets, sterling briefly sank below $1.27 but did not reach the four-month lows that were plumbed a day earlier and was still higher compared to late Thursday, as dealers argued that the resignation news had already been priced in.
Stock markets mostly rebounded with US President Donald Trump offering an “olive branch” to China in their trade war, dealers said.
While British leaders were among the first to react to Theresa May’s resignation yesterday morning, it was a moment of political impact felt around the world.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s opposition Labour party said May was right to resign.
“She’s now accepted what the country’s known for months: she can’t govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party,” he tweeted. “Whoever becomes the new Tory leader must let the people decide our country’s future, through an immediate General Election.”
Senior politicians from May’s own party also tweeted their tributes.
Boris Johnson, the MP and comedy TV panel show favourite who built a reputation as a bemused, boorish and baffled character, is the bookmakers’ favourite to replace Theresa May as Conservative party leader.
“Thank you for your stoical service to our country and the Conservative Party,” he tweeted, before turning to a wider audience. “It is now time to follow her urgings: to come together and deliver Brexit.”
Global leaders also weighed in on May’s resignation, which followed a series of bungled attempts to win support for a Brexit deal.
European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, praised May as “a woman of courage” for whom he had great respect.
Juncker will “equally respect and establish working relations” with any new British leader, a EU spokeswoman said. But the bloc also insisted it will not renegotiate the Brexit deal.
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