British PM Theresa May resigns over Brexit failure

Theresa May won the top job in the turmoil that followed the 2016 Brexit vote. (AFP)
Updated 28 May 2019

British PM Theresa May resigns over Brexit failure

  • She will resign as Conservative Party leader on June 7 with a leadership contest in the following week
  • She endured crises and humiliation in her effort to find a compromise Brexit deal that parliament could ratify

LONDON: Theresa May announced Friday that she will step down as U.K. Conservative Party leader on June 7, admitting defeat in her attempt to take Britain out of the European Union and sparking a contest to become the country's next prime minister.

She will stay as caretaker prime minister until the new leader is chosen, a process likely to take several weeks. The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election, and will take up the task of trying to secure Britain's exit from the EU.

Her voice breaking, May said in a televised statement outside 10 Downing St. that she would soon be leaving a job that it has been "the honor of my life to hold."

May became prime minister the month after Britons voted in June 2016 to leave the European Union, and her premiership has been consumed by the attempt to deliver on that verdict.

Now she has bowed to relentless pressure from her party to quit over her failure to take Britain out of the EU on the scheduled date of March 29. Britain is currently due to leave the EU on Oct. 31, but Parliament has yet to approve divorce terms.

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RELATED: TIMELINE: Theresa May's three tumultuous Downing Street years

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"I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide," May said.

"I have done my best to do that. ... But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort."

US President Donald Trump told reporters on the White House lawn, “I feel badly for Theresa. I like her very much. She is a good woman,”

“She’s a good woman. She worked very hard. She’s very strong.” 

Multiple contenders are already jockeying to replace her and take up the challenge of securing Britain's EU exit. The early front-runner is Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary and strong champion of Brexit.

Conservative lawmakers increasingly see May as an obstacle to Britain's EU exit, although her replacement will face the same issue: a Parliament deeply divided over whether to leave the EU, and how close a relationship to seek with the bloc after it does.

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.

Pressure on May reached breaking point this week as House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom quit and several Cabinet colleagues expressed doubts about the bill she planned to put before Parliament in a fourth attempt to secure Parliament's backing for her Brexit blueprint.

Leadsom, another likely contender to replace May, joined colleagues in paying tribute to the departing leader. She tweeted that May's "dignified speech" had been "an illustration of her total commitment to country and duty. She did her utmost, and I wish her all the very best."

Johnson, whose relentless criticism helped push May out of the door, tweeted: "Thank you for your stoical service to our country and the Conservative Party. It is now time to follow her urgings: to come together and deliver Brexit."

But Johnson, or any other successor, will face a tough challenge to unite a country and a Parliament still deeply divided over the country's relationship with Europe.

The next British leader is likely to be a staunch Brexiteer, who will try to renegotiate the divorce deal, and if that fails to leave the bloc without an agreement on departure terms.

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.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker praised May as "a woman of courage" for whom he has great respect.

EU spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said Juncker will "equally respect and establish working relations" with any new British leader.

But the bloc insists it will not renegotiate the Brexit deal.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte tweeted that the "agreement reached between the EU and the United Kingdom for an ordered Brexit remains on the table."

Angela Merkel's spokeswoman, Martina Fietz, said the German chancellor noted May's decision "with respect" and would continue to work closely with her successor for "an orderly exit."

In an emotional departure speech, with close aides and her husband Philip looking on, May said she was Britain's "second female prime minister but certainly not the last."

She said she was leaving "with no ill-will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love."

 


Curfew call in Indian capital after 20 die in sectarian clashes

Updated 26 February 2020

Curfew call in Indian capital after 20 die in sectarian clashes

  • Clashes began on Monday between people supporting and opposing the citizenship law
  • Unrest is the worst sectarian violence seen in Delhi in decades

NEW DELHI: Riot police patrolled the streets of India’s capital on Wednesday and the city’s leader called for a curfew following battles between Hindus and Muslims that claimed at least 20 lives.
The two days of unrest — which has seen clashes between mobs armed with swords and guns — is the worst sectarian violence seen in Delhi in decades.
The clashes come amid worsening religious tensions following a citizenship law that critics say is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda.
Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, called Wednesday for the army to be deployed and for a curfew to be imposed over flashpoint northeastern districts.
“Police, despite all its efforts, (are) unable to control the situation and instill confidence,” Kejriwal tweeted on Wednesday morning.
“Army (should) be called in and curfew imposed.”
The clashes began on Monday between people supporting and opposing the citizenship law, then descended into pitched battles between the mobs.
Twenty people died and nearly 200 others were wounded in the first two days of violence, the director of the hospital where people were taken, told AFP on Wednesday.
Sixty people had suffered gunshot wounds, according to the director, Sunil Kumar.
The area is home to mostly poorer economic migrants living in many shanty neighborhoods, and some fled on Wednesday ahead of more expected clashes.
“People are killing (each other). Bullets are being fired here,” a tailor in the Jaffrabad area told AFP, adding that he was returning home to his village in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
“There is no work... It is better to leave than to stick around here. Why would we want to die here?“
On Wednesday morning AFP saw people cleaning out the blackened and trashed interior of a mosque in the Ashok Nagar area burned out during the violence.
A video circulated on social media and verified by AFP showed men ripping off the muezzin’s loudspeaker on top of the mosque’s minaret and placing a Hindu religious flag and an Indian flag.
The new citizenship law has raised worries abroad that Modi wants to remold secular India into a Hindu nation while marginalizing the country’s 200 million Muslims, a claim he denies.
The law expedites the citizenship applications for persecuted minorities from India’s three Muslim-majority neighboring countries, but not if they are Muslim.
The flare-up in violence occurred as US President Donald Trump visited India and held talks with Modi in Delhi on Tuesday.
But Trump left as scheduled on Tuesday and his visit was not visibly interrupted by the violence.