Undone by Brexit, May Steps Down as Conservative Leader - NECN
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Undone by Brexit, May Steps Down as Conservative Leader

The prime minister's departure as leader of her party sets up a race to succeed her

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Undone by Brexit, May Steps Down as Conservative Leader
    Alastair Grant/AP, File
    In this May 24, 2019, file photo, British Prime Minister Theresa May walks away after making a speech in the street outside 10 Downing Street in London. She said she would quit as UK Conservative leader on June 7, sparking contest for Britain's next prime minister.

    British Prime Minister Theresa May formally stepped down as Conservative Party leader on Friday, defeated by the Brexit conundrum.

    May's three years at the helm ended not with a bang but a whimper: The party simply confirmed there had been a private exchange of letters between May and the committee that oversees party rules, confirming the departure announced by May two weeks ago.

    May will remain as acting leader and prime minister for a few weeks while the party picks a successor, who will become Britain's next prime minister.

    Almost a dozen Conservative lawmakers are already jostling to replace May in a contest that formally opens Monday, vowing to succeed where 62-year-old May failed and renegotiate Britain's deal to pull out of the European Union. There's just one problem: The EU says that's not going to happen.

    British PM Theresa May Announces Resignation

    [NATL] British PM Theresa May Announces Resignation

    Theresa May announced Friday that she will step down as U.K. Conservative Party leader on June 7, sparking a contest to become Britain's next prime minister. She'll stay as prime minister until a new party leader is chosen.

    (Published Friday, May 24, 2019)

    "There will be no renegotiation," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said — not for the first time — last week.

    On Friday, Juncker lamented: "Everyone understands English, but nobody understands England."

    Britain voted 52% to 48% in 2016 to leave the EU, and the 27 other nations finally agreed late last year to a detailed withdrawal plan with May's government.

    But her plan has been rejected three times by Parliament, doomed by hardline lawmakers who wanted more of a clean break and those who wanted a softer Brexit that kept close economic ties to the bloc.

    The departure day has been postponed from March 29 to Oct. 31.

    In the wake of the plan's defeat, many of May's Conservative colleagues decided she had to go.

    British Parliament Strikes Down May's Brexit Deal

    [NATL] British Parliament Strikes Down May's Brexit Deal

    British lawmakers rejected a Brexit deal put forth by British Prime Minister Theresa May by a record margin on Jan. 15, with 432 MPs voting against her deal at the House of Commons. 

    (Published Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019)

    The mess has transformed the U.K.'s political map. May's Conservatives and the main opposition Labour Party are both fractured over how to leave the EU.

    Frustrated and angry voters are turning away from the big parties to the upstart Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage and — on the other side of the European divide — the Liberal Democrats and Greens, who want Britain to remain in the EU.

    Farage's Brexit Party came close to winning its first seat in Parliament on Friday, narrowly losing to Labour in a special election in the eastern England city of Peterborough. Labour's share of the vote fell sharply from the last election in 2017, and the Conservatives came third.

    Despite the loss, Farage said the result showed that British politics had "fundamentally changed," with the stranglehold of the long-dominant Conservative and Labour parties now broken.

    It's too soon to say whether he is right, but the bigger parties are worried.

    May became Britain's second female prime minister in July 2016, after her predecessor David Cameron stepped down in the wake of the EU referendum. Now the party will hold a similar contest to replace her.

    Brexit Vote Delayed by British Prime Minister Theresa May

    [NAT] Brexit Vote Delayed by British Prime Minister Theresa May

    British Prime Minister Theresa May announced she has postponed a key parliamentary vote on Britain’s Brexit deal with the E.U.

    (Published Monday, Dec. 10, 2018)

    Conservative lawmakers will hold a ballot June 13, with any candidates who don't get at least 5% of votes dropping out. Further rounds will be held on June 18, 19 and 20 if needed, with the least popular candidate dropping out each time.

    The final two candidates will be put to a postal ballot of about 160,000 Conservative members, with the winner announced the week of July 22.

    The race, which already has 11 candidates, is utterly dominated by Brexit.

    The front-runner, Boris Johnson, has warned that the Conservatives face "extinction" if Britain doesn't leave the EU on Oct. 31.

    Johnson is one of several contenders — including Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Health Secretary Matt Hancock — promising to go back to Brussels and make changes to the Brexit deal.

    "I believe that European leaders want to find a way through this," Gove wrote in the Daily Mail.

    Watch: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Full Opening Statement at House Hearing on Reparations

    [NATL] Watch: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Full Opening Statement at House Hearing on Reparations

    Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of “The Case for Reparations,” testified before a House Judiciary subcommittee during a hearing on whether the United States should consider compensation for the descendants of slaves. 

    He delivered a rebuttal to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's comments that "no one currently alive was responsible for that," which Coates called a "strange theory of governance." 

    "Well into this century the United States was still paying out pensions to the heirs of civil war soldiers," he said. "We honor treaties that date back some 200 years despite no one being alive who signed those treaties. Many of us would love to be taxed for the things we are solely and individually responsible for. But we are American citizens and this bound to a collective enterprise that extends beyond our individual and personal reach."

    (Published Wednesday, June 19, 2019)

    But the chances that the other EU countries would consider reopening the legally binding agreement appear slim at best. Even as the Brexit saga has dragged on and the pressure of a potentially disastrous "no deal" Brexit mounted, no European leader has publicly shown an appetite for renegotiating any part of the 585-page text.

    Hard-core Brexiteers in the British leadership contest say they would rather take Britain out of the bloc with no deal than countenance a further delay.

    Most economists and businesses say a no-deal Brexit would cause economic turmoil, imposing obstacles overnight between the U.K. and the EU, its biggest trading partner.

    Lorne Cook contributed to this story.