Outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May formally tendered her resignation to Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday as her successor Boris Johnson prepares to take over.
May arrived at the palace after earlier urging Johnson to deliver Brexit “in a way that works for the whole United Kingdom” — an allusion to the deep divisions that the issue has caused in the country.
Donald Trump lashed out at Theresa May on Monday, visibly angry at her continuing support for the British ambassador to Washington despite the leak of diplomatic cables highly critical of his presidency.
London has been scrambling to stem the damage caused by the release of confidential telegrams from envoy Kim Darroch, which described Trump as “inept” and his White House as “uniquely dysfunctional.”
In a series of tweets, Trump assailed the British premier, welcoming her impending departure from office, and saying he would have no further contact with the ambassador.
“I have been very critical about the way the U.K. and Prime Minister Theresa May handled Brexit,” Trump wrote. “What a mess she and her representatives have created.”
“I told her how it should be done, but she decided to go another way.”
“The good news for the wonderful United Kingdom is that they will soon have a new Prime Minister,” Trump wrote.
Regarding the envoy Darroch, Trump declared: “We will no longer deal with him.”
“I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S,” the president said.
The British prime minister’s office called the leak “unacceptable” but also defended the work of ambassadors in providing “honest, unvarnished assessments of politics in their country.”
“The prime minister has full faith in her ambassador to Washington,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
The release of the cables came just a month after a state visit by Trump that included a 41-gun salute welcome at Buckingham Palace and a banquet dinner with the queen.
“While I thoroughly enjoyed the magnificent State Visit last month, it was the Queen who I was most impressed with!” Trump tweeted.
Around a dozen, British Conservative MPs will formally throw their hats into the ring on Monday in the fight to replace Theresa May as party leader and Prime Minister, with her former foreign secretary Boris Johnson seen as the runaway favourite.
Nominations to succeed May — who resigned on Friday as head of the ruling Tory party following her failure to deliver Brexit — open at 10:00 am (0900 GMT) and close at 5:00 pm (1600 GMT).
Britain’s departure from the European Union, twice delayed and now set for October 31, will dominate a contest scheduled to run until late July and which, in the past, has been characterised by shocks and surprises.
The new leader of the centre-right party — which won the most seats at the last general election in 2017 — will almost certainly become prime minister, with May remaining in Downing Street in the meantime.
Unofficial campaigning already started weeks ago and Johnson has emerged as the undisputed frontrunner — although in previous leadership races the early pacesetter has never been victorious.
Current foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, interior minister Sajid Javid and Environment Secretary Michael Gove are perhaps the best-known names of 10 other MPs also in the running.
– Brexit dominates – Each candidate must be nominated by at least eight Conservative MPs.
In a series of ballots over the coming weeks, party lawmakers will then whittle down the list of names to just two.
The final choice will then be made by more than 160,000 paying party members.
“The obvious big issue is Brexit — there is very little else that preoccupies the Conservative Party at the moment,” Tim Bale, politics professor at Queen Mary, University of London, told AFP.
“Boris Johnson is likely to win this election because he is offering the Conservative party members what they want… a no-deal Brexit,” he added, referring to Britain leaving the EU without a formal agreement.
But “whether he can actually achieve that is another matter,” the expert said.
– Chequered track record – Johnson, 54, a former mayor of London and key figure in the divisive 2016 EU referendum campaign, served as May’s foreign secretary until he resigned last summer over her Brexit strategy.
Charismatic and popular among grassroots Conservatives, he is less liked by Conservative MPs sceptical of his bombastic style and chequered track record.
Although some believe his undistinguished two-year tenure as Britain’s top diplomat may work against him, Johnson has garnered growing support from cabinet members and both centrist and right-wing Tories.
He has vowed Britain will leave the EU “deal or no deal” in October and said this weekend he would withhold the country’s Brexit bill if the EU does not offer improved withdrawal terms.
Johnson also argued only he could defeat leftist Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-EU populist Nigel Farage, whose new Brexit Party has been poaching Tory voters disgruntled at the party’s handling of Brexit.
– Cocaine scandal – Johnson’s closest rival is seen as Environment Secretary Michael Gove, a eurosceptic who also fronted the 2016 Leave campaign.
He turned on Johnson during the last leadership contest in 2016, in a move that ultimately cleared the path for May.
However, the 51-year-old has become mired in controversy after he admitted — with deep regret — to using cocaine on several occasions two decades ago.
In contrast to Johnson on Brexit, Gove has said he would delay leaving the EU by “a few extra days or weeks” if needed to seal a new deal.
Another leading contender, Hunt, has vowed to renegotiate the agreement May struck with Brussels, claiming Sunday that he had received encouraging signals for such a move from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
– Long shots – All of the candidates will take part in a series of private hustings in front of MPs, and some have also committed to appear in television debates.
Once selected, the two finalists will then hold at least a dozen party member events around Britain.
The other contenders are regarded more as long shots.
Ex-Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, 2016 leadership contender Angela Leadsom and former work and pensions minister Ester McVey are all ardent eurosceptics who insist on Britain leaving the EU in October.
Among those taking a more moderate stand on Brexit are international development secretary Rory Stewart, health minister Matt Hancock, former chief whip Mark Harper and former universities’ secretary Sam Gyimah, who backs a second referendum.
British Prime Minister Theresa May steps down as leader of her Conservative Party on Friday, formally triggering the race for a successor who will try where she failed to deliver Brexit.
May will remain prime minister until a new leader is chosen, likely in late July, but has relinquished control over the direction of Britain’s tortuous departure from the European Union.
Brexit is still scheduled for October 31 but while her rivals thrash it out, the project remains stuck, with the only divorce plan agreed with Brussels stuck in parliament.
May took office after the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU and has spent the past three years working on the plan, delaying Brexit twice to try to get it through.
But she finally acknowledged defeat in a tearful resignation speech last month, the culmination of months of political turmoil that has slowly sapped all her authority.
Eleven Conservative MPs are currently vying to replace her, including former foreign minister Boris Johnson, but some are expected to drop out before Monday’s deadline for nominations.
The winner will have only a few months to decide whether to try to salvage May’s plan, delay Brexit again — or sever ties with Britain’s closest trading partner with no agreement at all.
They are under pressure from eurosceptic figurehead Nigel Farage, who has called for a “no deal” option and whose Brexit party topped European polls last month.
His party suffered a setback on Friday after narrowly missing out on winning its first parliamentary seat, losing to Labour in a by-election in the eastern city of Peterborough.
Despite winning, Labour’s vote share fell by 17 percent while the Tories plummeted by 25 percent, highlighting the task facing May’s successor.
Polling guru John Curtice told the BBC that the result showed Britain was now in a “different political world”.
“A lot of constituencies are now looking at four-party politics, and perhaps in others five-party politics,” said a disappointed Farage.
– Power shift –
May will formally relinquish her leadership in a private letter to her party on Friday, but no official events are planned to mark the day.
She put on a brave face this week when hosting US President Donald Trump for a state visit, before joining him and other world leaders to mark 75 years since the D-Day landings.
But Trump used the trip to speak with Johnson and other candidates to replace her, emphasising where the political power in Britain now lies.
“She remains prime minister for a good few weeks yet,” May’s spokesman insisted, noting that any successor must meet Queen Elizabeth II and assure the monarch they have the support of enough lawmakers to take over.
He said May would focus on domestic issues, but “in relation to Brexit, the prime minister said it wouldn’t be for her to take this process forward”.
Trump has been highly critical of May’s Brexit strategy and ahead of his visit to Britain, urged her successor to leave the bloc with no deal if necessary.
Johnson, a leading campaigner in the 2016 referendum who quit the government last year over May’s plan, is among several would-be candidates who say they are willing to do this.
But Environment Secretary Michael Gove, another frontrunner, is open to another Brexit delay, while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said leaving with no deal is “political suicide”.
Trump had a phone call with Johnson this week and met both Hunt and Farage, although a planned meeting with Gove never materialised.
Nominations for the contest must be submitted on Monday, and the 313 Conservative MPs — including May — will hold the first of a series of secret ballots on June 13.
With the worst performers eliminated each time, the goal is to have two candidates left by June 20. They will then be put to a ballot of an estimated 100,000 party members.
The contest should be completed by the week commencing July 22.
Here is the timetable ahead for Britain’s prime minister as Theresa May prepares to step down from the role:
May 24: Theresa May announces her intention to resign as leader of the governing, centre-right Conservative Party and therefore as prime minister.
May 26-27: Results of Thursday’s UK elections to the European Parliament revealed. Opinion polls put the newly-formed Brexit Party on course to win. The Conservatives could finish as low as fifth.
May 28: Informal dinner of EU heads of state or government in Brussels to discuss the outcome of the European Parliament elections and start nominating the new heads of the EU institutions. May is expected to attend.
May 29: Date on which May will have lasted longer in office than the last Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown, who was in Downing Street from 2007 to 2010. She would become Britain’s 35th-longest-serving prime minister out of 54.
June 3: US President Donald Trump begins his three-day state visit to Britain.
June 4: May and Trump to hold talks at Downing Street followed by lunch and news conference.
June 5: Trump and May due to attend a major military ceremony in Portsmouth on the southern English coast, from where ships left for D-Day landings 75 years ago in the largest seaborne invasion in history.
June 6: Main D-Day commemorations in Normandy, northern France.
June 6: Peterborough by-election. A marginal seat which the Conservatives would, in normal circumstances, hope to win. The Brexit Party is looking to cause a major upset and win its first seat in parliament here.
June 7: May will formally resign as leader of the Conservative Party. She will remain as prime minister until her successor is chosen.
June 10: Process to elect new Conservative Party leader set to start this week. Nominations to close by the end of the week.
June 20-21: European summit in Brussels. EU leaders will decide on who will take the big jobs in the bloc’s institutions for the next five years and to adopt the EU’s strategic agenda for 2019-2024.
June 28-29: G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. Britain’s prime minister due to attend.
End of June: Conservative MPs expected to have whittled down their leadership contenders to the final two by this time.
July 2: Inaugural plenary session of the new European Parliament. It was hoped that Britain, even if it took part in the elections, would be out before this point so the MEPs would never actually take their seats.
July 11: Third anniversary of May becoming leader of the Conservative Party.
July 13: Third anniversary of May becoming prime minister.
July 20: Date parliament is set to go on its summer break. The Conservative Party said the leadership contest results would be announced by this point.
August 25-27: G7 summit in Biarritz, southwest France. New British prime minister due to attend.
September 29-October 2: Conservative Party conference in Manchester, northwest England. The new party leader will be in place and address their main annual gathering.
October 17-18: EU summit in Brussels. British prime minister due to attend if UK is still in the bloc at this date.
October 31: Barring a third postponement or an earlier departure, Britain leaves the European Union.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday took note of the decision by British Prime Minister Theresa May to resign “with respect”, saying that they shared a “good and trusting” working relationship.
Pledging to keep working with May in the same spirit as long as she is in office, Merkel noted that Berlin “wishes to maintain close cooperation and a close relationship with the British government,” the German leader’s spokeswoman Martina Fietz said.
Fietz declined to comment on how May’s decision could affect Brexit, as “the development depends essentially on domestic political developments in Britain.
President Emmanuel Macron wants to see a “rapid clarification” over Britain’s departure from the European Union after Prime Minister Theresa May announced she would step down next month, the French presidency said Friday.
Macron hailed May for “courageous work” in seeking to implement Brexit in the interests of her country while showing respect for Britain’s European partners, the Elysee said in a statement.
But it added: “The principles of the EU will continue to apply, with the priority on the smooth functioning of the EU, and this requires a rapid clarification.”
Some of the candidates to replace May as leader of the Conservative Party and thus prime minister have said they would seek to change the terms of the divorce deal she negotiated.
But commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva old reporters that the other 27 EU leaders had approved the deal as it stands and that there are no plans to re-open its terms.
As has long been the case, Brussels could envisage modifying a non-binding political declaration that accompanies the Brexit treaty to flesh out ambitions for future EU-UK ties.
But the withdrawal agreement, which May tried and failed three times to get past the British parliament, is not up for renegotiation, Andreeva said, reiterating the EU stance.
Juncker, she said, “very much liked and appreciated working with Prime Minister May and, as he as said before, Theresa May is a woman of courage for whom he has great respect.
“He will equally respect and establish working relations with any new prime minister, whoever they may be, without stoping his conversations with Prime Minister May,” she said.
“Our position on the Withdrawal Agreement and anything else has been set out by Margaritis yesterday. There is no change to that,” she added, referring to chief EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas.
On Thursday, Schinas had told reporters: “Our position is clear: the divorce agreement, the withdrawal agreement, cannot be reopened, cannot be renegotiated.
“The European Council has included in its conclusions several sentences which say that the political declaration can be reviewed if and as long as it does not undermine the spirit of the agreement.”
Separately, the EU official who negotiated the agreement with May, Michel Barnier tweeted: “I would like to express my full respect for @theresa_may and for her determination, as Prime Minister, in working towards the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU.