The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May, has officially resigned her leadership of the Conservative Party today but will stay on as Prime Minister until a new leader is chosen.
The move comes after making her tearful announcement outside Downing Street on almost a fortnight ago (24th May).
Her resignation could be seen as an inevitability after months of media speculation and meetings with high profile Brexiteer and Remainer Conservatives and her own statements that she would tender her resignation in order to get her negotiated deal through the Parliament.
Brexit means Brexit
May had entered the Prime Ministerial role on the 13th July 2016, no more than three weeks after 52% of voters voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, replacing the former Conservative leader David Cameron.
From the moment of entering the office, she promised to ‘fulfil the will of the British people’ by triggering EU legislation Article 50 and beginning the process of negotiating a withdrawal deal from the European Union.
Mrs May was helming a highly divided cabinet, party and country over Brexit. While spending two years negotiating a deal over withdrawal, Brexiteer MPs within her cabinet voiced their objections to aspects like the Irish Backstop, which they argued would effectively keep the UK locked into aspects of European legislation and therefore not the full separation they desired. This encouraged the movement for the UK to crash out of the EU on the first official Brexit day, March 29th. At the same, Remainers within her party wanted the Prime Minister to find ways that would protect the UK’s interests and a future relationship with the EU bloc. This was likened to the nomenclature of ‘Soft’ and ‘Hard’ Brexit realities.
Despite Mrs May regular visits to Brussels to re-negotiate the deal, key EU officials like the European Commissioner Jean Claude Juncker said that the deal could not be re-negotiated. However, as it latterly panned out, the EU was prepared to work through a series of different options which would form the UK and EU’s future relationship.
Back home, MPs on both sides of Brexit began to divide further on their positions for a No Deal Brexit while others were pushing for the possibility of a Second Brexit Referendum. Then of course are the numerous resignations of key cabinet ministers like Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab (both to hold Foreign Secretary role) and Andrea Leadsom (Commons Leader)
Votes, Amendments, Delays
Theresa May tried to win support for her Brexit three times in the House of Commons but failed to win a majority resulting in deadlock in the Parliament.
On her first attempt in January, the Prime Minister only managed to win 202 MPs over to her deal while 432 voted against.
Then in March, the Prime Minister attempted a further two occasions, incremently winning more support but not enough to get the deal through the Parliament.
2nd vote – 391 votes against to 242 in favour
3rd vote – 344 votes against to 286 in favour
With each occasion, the Prime Minister promised MPs more chances to have a say what they wanted from the deal to include, like concessions on customs unions with the EU, Brexit delays and whether the UK should have a second referendum.
What was clear from the Amendments was that MPs at the time wavered over whether it was right to have a NO-Deal Brexit with the most conclusive agreement being that the UK needed more time beyond the original March 29th Brexit deadline.
Two extensions later
May 22nd or April 12th – The first officially agreed extension of the Brexit process was negotiated between Theresa May and the EU and its member state leaders on the 21st March. If MPs could not support the Brexit deal beyond May 22nd, they would have until April 12th to ‘indicate a way forward.’
Unfortunately, once again MPs could not agree on May’s deal and the Prime Minister was back in Brussels requesting a further extension that would alleviate the deadlock even further.
Finally in the middle of March, EU leaders and member state representatives finally agreed to give the UK a much larger extension on the proviso that the UK participated in the European Elections and that the UK did not waste the opportunity to agree the withdrawal deal so that the future relationship could be processed after the UK’s official departure.
Now the UK has until October 31st to leave the EU. Before then, the Conservative Party has to select a new leader.
There are understood to be 11 contenders for May’s job including a mix of Brexiteers and Remainers from the Conservative Party; Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock, Esther McVey, Rory Stewart, Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper and Sam Gyimah.
The first ballot for the candidates will take place on Thursday 13th June with three rounds set to take place on the 18th, 19th and 20th.
It will be up to the 160,000 Conservative Party Membership then have the final choice over the two remaining candidates.
By the 22nd July, there will be a new Conservative Leader.