Resignation of Theresa May the tails as Prime Minister
©REUTERS

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced her resignation. She will resign on June 7 as leader of the Conservative Party and remains as prime minister until her party members have chosen a successor. The internal party election starts a week later. “I tried three times to get a deal approved by parliament, unsuccessfully,” she said at a 10-minute Downing Street press release.

May came to power in the political chaos that followed the referendum on the Brexit in 2016. Prime Minister David Cameron resigned and to the amazement of friend and foe, his prominent party member and “Brexit” Boris Johnson decided not to throw up the party leadership. In recent years, May has not succeeded in getting her country out of the EU. Although it concluded a Brexit deal with the EU, it was repeatedly voted down by the British House of Commons.

“I have done my best to respect an EU referendum. I have drawn up the conditions of departure, established new relationships with partner countries. I tried to convince MEPs, but unfortunately, that did not work. I tried three times,” said an emotional May after a conversation with the chairman of the 1922 Committee. “I think it was worth continuing” with the Brexit, May said. “But it is now clear that it is in the country’s interest that a new prime minister leads those efforts.”

Successor

“It is, and it will always be, with great regret that I have not succeeded in carrying out the Brexit. It is now up to my successor to find a way to honor the result of the referendum,” said the prime minister. “To do that, he or she will have to find a consensus in the parliament, which I have not succeeded in,” to be the second female prime minister in British history.

The process of choosing a party leader will start in the coming week, says May yet. “I have kept the Queen constantly informed of developments and have informed her that I will remain her prime minister until that process is completed.”The United Kingdom should have a new prime minister by the end of July, according to the Conservative Party.

Candidates must be nominated by two members of parliament. If there is only one candidate, it will automatically be president, but it now seems that there are many candidates. The list of candidates is reduced to two candidates on the basis of a series of parliamentary ballots. Their candidacy shall then be put to the vote of all members of the party, who shall elect the next party leader.

It is still unclear what the consequences are of the change of power. Former minister Boris Johnson is currently seen as a favorite to succeed May. He is known as a Brexit hardliner. The EU has already made it clear that it does not want to renegotiate the divorce agreement it has concluded with May.

Resignation of Theresa May the tails as Prime Minister
©AP – Boris Johnson.

No consensus

The Prime Minister promised to steer her country out of the EU and launched elections in 2017 in the hope of strengthening her position. This proved counterproductive: the conservatives lost their absolute majority in the Lower House and were dependent on the support of the Northern Irish DUP.

hat Avenged itself after May returned from Brussels in November with a deal. The House of Commons repeatedly refused to approve those agreements. It was not only the opposition and the lenient partner, DUP, but also its own Conservative Party, which was strongly opposed to the agreement.

May’s cabinet was also divided over the British leaving the EU. On two occasions, a Brexit minister resigned in protest against her policy. Boris Johnson, who had become secretary of State, also left with slamming doors last year. The political stalemate eventually led to the postponement of the Brexit, which should have taken place on 29 March. The House of Commons did not wait for May’s agreement but did not want a chaotic Brexit without a deal. The prime minister has repeatedly had to go to Brussels to ask for an extension of the deadline.

Procrastination

The postponement granted by the EU Member States did not, however, bring a way out of the political impasse in London any closer. The EU did not want to renegotiate the divorce agreement with the British. May had to make do with the deal she had and was given the time until October 31.

The persistent Brexit chaos led to great frustration among the population in the United Kingdom. Voters expressed their dissatisfaction at local elections in May. The conservatives then suffered a heavy defeat. May was forced to consult with the Labor opposition party, but that did not help either.

That did not prevent the Prime Minister from announcing the fourth vote on her deal. She tried to make the agreement more attractive to the opposition by making all kinds of concessions. The prime minister, for example, opened the door ajar for a second referendum. The commitments, however, did not go far enough for the opposition and fell badly within its party. It started rumbling this week and May’s last authority crumbled quickly.

Resignation of Theresa May the tails as Prime Minister
©AP – A caricature Theresa May on an anti-Brexit demonstration.

With the resignation, May becomes one of the prime ministers with the shortest term in British history. According to BBC, she is doing better than Gordon Brown (2007-2010), who spent 2 years and 319 days in Downing Street. May cape ends May 29.

Second referendum

The government planned to publish its Withdrawal Agreement Bill today so that it could be voted in parliament at the beginning of June, but it was announced yesterday that the publication would be postponed until after June 3.

Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt has reportedly told May that she should completely abolish the law, while Home Secretary Sajid Javid strongly opposed May’s plan for a second Brexit referendum. On Wednesday Andrea Leadsom, leader of the Conservatives in the Lower House, resigned because she could no longer support May’s approach.

Yesterday it became known that the 1922 Committee within the Conservative party was brooding on a change in party rules to show May the door through a vote of no confidence.

Avoid ‘no deal’

In a first reaction to the announced resignation of May, CD & V Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters emphasizes that work must be resumed quickly. “British Prime Minister Theresa May had been given the particularly thankless task of cleaning up the debris of the referendum. More important than who follows her is that we quickly resume work and look for a negotiated solution for the Brexit tangle,” says Peeters. “We must continue to do everything to avoid a ‘no deal’.”

“Despite our differences, Theresa May showed a spirit of openness to the UK and the EU to find a solution to the United Kingdom and Gibraltar European Union membership referendum.” So does the Belgian Minister Charles Michel on Twitter. “I want to thank her for her determination and cooperation. An orderly Brexit remains the best way to safeguard the interests of our people and economies. Let us continue on that road,” says Michel.

Resignation of Theresa May the tails as Prime Minister
©BELGA – Archive image Charles Michel, Theresa May and Emanuel Macron.

According to Flemish Prime Minister Geert Bourgeois, British Prime Minister Theresa May stood in the Brexit file for an “impossible task”. Bourgeois fears that May’s resignation will increase the existing uncertainty and hopes that her successor will become “a pragmatic Brexit”. “Another umpteenth episode in the Brexit drama,” Bourgeois calls May’s resignation.

According to Bourgeois, from the outset, May was faced with an impossible task in the Brexit file. For example, she had to deal with the much-discussed result of the referendum, torn within her own party and an opposition party (Labor) that was itself divided internally. Now that the talks between the majority and the opposition have yielded nothing, the resignation of May is, according to Bourgeois, a “logical conclusion”.

However, that resignation does not make matters any easier. On the contrary, the uncertainty threatens to increase, Bourgeois fears. “The worst thing is that the clock is ticking. October 31 (the new deadline in the Brexit file, ed.) Is a short day. I don’t know how it will be solved,” he sighs.

It remains to be seen who will succeed in May. Bourgeois hopes it will not become a hard Brexiteer but a pragmatic one. The scenario of a hard Brexit or ‘no deal’ remains, according to Bourgeois, the absolute doom scenario. “That is and remains the worst scenario for the United Kingdom, for the EU, and for Flanders,” said Bourgeois.

Resignation of Theresa May the tails as Prime Minister
©Getty Images – Archival Image, Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has followed the announcement of the resignation of British Prime Minister Theresa May “without personal joy”. “He liked and appreciated Mrs. May. He respected her and finds her a very brave woman,” said his spokeswoman. “The chairman will keep in touch with her.”

Juncker remains “available” for May’s successor, the committee spokeswoman said, “regardless of who that is, to work towards the orderly departure of the British from the EU as agreed”. She stressed that the EU position on the Brexit is “unchanged” and well-known. “There will be no change in the divorce agreement.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel “respects” the decision of her British colleague Theresa May to resign. Merkel wants to continue to work closely with the British government in the future. French President Emmanuel Macron praises May’s “courageous work” and hopes that the British will soon clarify the Brexit.

Resignation of Theresa May the tails as Prime Minister
Theresa May and Angela Merkel

Both Merkel and Macron do not want to speculate about the consequences of May’s resignation. The Elysée emphasizes that it remains the priority to safeguard the smooth functioning of the EU. To achieve this, clarity about the Brexit is needed, as it is stated in a communication.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte thanked his British colleague May and “conveyed his respect.” According to Rutte, her resignation does not mean the end for the agreement she has reached with the European Union on the Brexit. That “stays on the table”. The Netherlands closely follows the complications in London, also because the United Kingdom is an important trading partner and often an important ally in the EU. “The United Kingdom and the Netherlands are closely linked,” Rutte emphasized.

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