A tearful Theresa May finally gave up her battle to deliver Brexit، as she announced her resignation and cleared the way for a chaotic Conservative leadership contest and the increased prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
Within hours of Mrs May announcing the end of her three-year premiership، Boris Johnson and other Tory leadership rivals began jostling in a contest that will end with Britain having a new prime minister by the end of July.
“We will leave the EU on October 31، deal or no deal،” the former foreign secretary said in a speech in Switzerland. “The job of our next leader has to be getting the UK properly out of the EU، putting Brexit to bed.”
Mr Johnson is the clear favourite to become Britain’s next prime minister، with most Tory MPs expecting the Tory crown to go to a Brexiter able to win the support of the party’s Eurosceptic base.
The Brexit saga has consumed Mrs May and her party، which faces a disastrous set of results in European Parliament elections that were held in the UK on Thursday but have yet to be declared. Dan Hannan، a Tory MEP، said he expected that not a single Conservative would be elected.
Given that Brussels has already rejected any reopening of the withdrawal treaty agreed by Mrs May and the EU last November، Brexiter candidates for the leadership are telling Tory MPs and activists that they will leave without a deal if necessary.
The final choice of the new Tory leader will be made by about 100،000 Conservative Party members، most of whom are strongly Eurosceptic. Some 75 per cent of members support a no-deal Brexit، according to a ConservativeHome activists survey.
Jeremy Hunt، foreign secretary، also confirmed that he would stand for the party leadership، joining a field of at least 15 Conservative ministers and MPs who hope to succeed Mrs May. She will officially stand down as party leader on June 7.
Mr Hunt wants to renegotiate a Brexit deal with Brussels but has said that he would be willing to see a no-deal departure. That could see Britain leave with many trade deals، citizens rights and the question of the Northern Ireland border unresolved.
In an emotional address to the nation outside Downing Street، Mrs May warned her party not to go down an ideological route، and pleaded with a future leader to seek a compromise agreement on Brexit.
She will stay on as caretaker prime minister until a new Tory leader is appointed and will host Donald Trump when the US president comes to Britain on a state visit from June 3-5.
Mr Trump is a friend of Mr Johnson، and rivals for the Tory leadership believe the US president will use the visit to endorse the former foreign secretary. “Boris will receive Trump’s endorsement، whether he likes it or not،” said one Tory official.