Theresa May announced Friday that she will step down as the U.K. Conservative Party Leader in the next two weeks, leaving the future of Britain’s attempt to leave the European Union, or Brexit, up in the air.
Continue Reading Below
May said she will quit as head of the governing party on June 7 but will stay on as caretaker prime minister until a new leader is chosen. Conservatives aim to replace May by the end of July.
As for who will take over the leadership role, some speculate former London mayor and ex-Foreigner Minister Boris Johnson could be the pick. Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab is possible. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Environment Secretary Michael Gove are also potential replacements.
Whoever becomes the leader will have to take on the role of trying to secure Britain’s exit from the EU.
May became the prime minister a month after the U.K. voted in June 2016 to leave the European Union. However, most of her tenure has been consumed by her attempt to deliver on that verdict. May spent more than a year and a half negotiating an exit agreement with the EU, only to see it rejected three times by Britain's Parliament.
Now with May’s departure, how will Brexit be affected?
It’s not entirely clear. The future of it will depend on who succeeds May, the BBC pointed out. The next leader is likely to be a staunch supporter of Brexit who will try to renegotiate the divorce deal, and, if that fails, leave the bloc without an agreement on a departure term.
The current deadline to leave the EU is Oct. 31.
Most businesses and economists think that would cause economic turmoil and plunge Britain into recession. Parliament has voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit, though it remains the legal default option. On Friday, stocks rose at the opening on Wall Street. The Dow rose 168 points in wake of May's announcement.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called May “a woman of courage” and said he has great respect for her.
May, who has been battling to unite her fractious party ever since she took the helm almost three years ago, said "I have done my best." But she conceded that had not been enough.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.