Tearful May resigns as PM, but stays on while race starts to find successor

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British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to the media outside 10 Downing Street in London, Britain on May 24, 2019. Theresa May said on Friday that she will quit as Conservative leader on June 7, paving ways for contest to decide Britain's next prime minister. (Xinhua/Alberto Pezzali)

Theresa May announced her resignation Friday as Britain's prime minister. She will remain at 10 Downing Street as caretaker while a search begins to elect her successor.

May said she will resign as leader of the Conservative Party on June 7, with the process to choose her successor as Britain's next prime minister beginning on June 10.

She made her decision against the backdrop of one of the world's best known front doors, with world media crowded on the opposite side of Downing Street to record her announcement.

May became emotional, and was close to tears, as she concluded her statement by saying being Britain's second female prime minister had been the honor of her life.

"It is, and will always remain, a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit," said May.

In her resignation speech, May said: "I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so. I tried three times. I believe it was right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high."

"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," she said.

May said Queen Elizabeth had approved her remaining as prime minister until her successor is chosen.

The timetable announced by May means she will still be in office next week when U.S. President Donald Trump pays a state visit to Britain.

Ahead of announcing her resignation, May held a private meeting with Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, the body that represents backbench Conservative MPs in the House of Commons.

A number of senior ministers have already indicated their intention to join the race, expected to start on June 10, to choose her successor as leader of the Conservative Party.

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who also served two terms as Mayor of London, has emerged as favorite to succeed May as prime minister.

May's time as prime minister has come to a crashing end over unrest among her own MPs over the Brexit withdrawal plan which she had planned to announced today.

The task of finding a way out of the Brexit deadlock will go to her successor.

A prime minister in British politics is not chosen by the population but falls onto the person who is leader of the governing party.

Thousands of grassroot members of the Conservative Party across Britain will take part in the process to find a new leader.

The focus will now switch to the race among leading Conservatives to get hold of the key to 10 Downing Street.

Apart from Boris Johnson, other top Conservatives ministers and ex-ministers joining the race are expected to include Dominic Raab, who resigned as Brexit minister, Michael Gove and Esther McVey.

One of the first reactions to May's decision came from Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister who is also leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party.

She said in a statement from Edinburgh: "We had profound disagreements, not least on her handling of Brexit and her disregard for Scotland's interests. However, leadership is tough, especially in these times, and she deserves thanks for her service."

"Her departure will not solve the Brexit mess that the Conservatives have created. Only putting the matter back to the people can do that. Given current circumstances, it also feels deeply wrong for another Conservative to be installed in Number 10 without a General Election."

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt paid tribute to May, saying: "Delivering Brexit was always going to be a huge task, but one she met every day with courage and resolve."

Media reports said a conversation between Hunt and May on Thursday night, when he told her she must withdraw her proposed re-written Brexit withdrawal bill, had been instrumental in May's decision to go.

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