It has been a long process, but Theresa May has finally succumbed to the mounting pressure and in a tearful address outside of 10 Downing Street the Prime Minister announced her resignation effective 7 June, following the visit of President Trump and the Peterborough by-election, due on 6 June.
The ever-growing list of candidates to replace her has grown by one, as Sir Graham Brady is now also reportedly in the race. There will be a series of party votes to narrow the candidate pool down to one, and by the middle of July the new Prime Minister should be in place, just in time for the summer recess.
In her address May said, “I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold, the second female Prime Minister, but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill will but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.”
The Prime Minister’s resignation means that the 1922 Committee of Conservative Party backbenchers will take control of the election of a new Prime Minister.
The electoral timetable was decided by the executive of the 1922 Committee after consultation with the party board, which includes representatives of the voluntary, parliamentary and professional party.
Nominations for the leadership will close in the week beginning 10 June, before a series of votes will narrow the field until a final choice of candidates can be put to a vote of all party members.
The final run-off candidates will be selected by the end of June and these candidates will then take part in a series of hustings around the country that will allow members to meet the candidates before the final vote that should see a new Prime Minister in place by mid-July.
Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis and the vice-chairs of the 1922 Committee, Cheryl Gillan and Charles Walker, issued a joint statement, “We are deeply conscious that the Conservatives are not just selecting the person best-placed to become the new leader of our party, but also the next prime minister of the United Kingdom. That is a solemn responsibility, particularly at such an important time for our nation. We will therefore propose that the leadership election and hustings involve opportunities for non-members and people who may not yet vote Conservative to meet the candidates and put their questions to them too.”
For industry, the concern must now be that a hard Brexiteer will gain control of the ruling Conservative Party and that could lead to severe disruptions in the supply chain.
That fear was articulated by Spain’s government spokeswoman, Isabel Celaá, who said “A hard Brexit in these circumstances seems an almost unstoppable reality.”
Celaá added, May’s departure would disappoint all those “who want an orderly U.K. exit from the European Union.”
Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar broadly agreed with Celaá. He said that the new phase of the Brexit process could be a dangerous one.
“In the next couple of months, we may see the election of a Euro-skeptic prime minister who wants to repudiate the Withdrawal Agreement and go for a no-deal, or we may even see a new British Government that wants a close relationship with the EU and goes for a second referendum,” said Varadkar.