Prime Minister Theresa May stepped down as leader of Britain's governing Conservative Party on Friday, formally triggering the race for a successor who will try where she failed to deliver Brexit. May, who quietly tendered her resignation in a private letter to the party, will remain prime minister until a new leader is chosen, likely in late July, but leaves Britain's tortuous departure from the European Union stalled.
Brexit is still scheduled for Oct 31 but while 11 contenders thrash it out over the leadership, the project remains stuck, with the only divorce plan agreed with Brussels having been repeatedly rejected by parliament.
”Following notification from the Prime Minister Theresa May MP that she has resigned as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party, (we) are inviting nominations from those Conservative members of parliament who wish to stand for election as the next party leader, the committee in charge of the contest said.
(She) will remain as acting leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party until her successor has been announced.
May took office after the shock 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU and has spent the past three years working on a departure plan, delaying Brexit twice to try to get the deal through.
But she finally acknowledged defeat in a tearful resignation speech last month, the culmination of months of political turmoil that had slowly sapped her authority.
Eleven Conservative MPs have declared their intention to stand to replace her, including former foreign minister Boris Johnson, but some are expected to drop out before the Monday 5pm 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.
Mrs. May spent the day in her constituency west of London. No official event took place and there was no statement from her 10 Downing Street office.
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.
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 head of state that they have the support of enough lawmakers to take over.
Nominations for the Conservative leadership contest open and close on Monday, and the 313 Conservative MPs - including May - will hold the first of a series of secret ballots on Thursday.
With the worst performers eliminated each time, the goal is to have two candidates left by Jun 20. They will then be put to a ballot of an estimated 100,000 party members.
The contest should be completed in the week commencing Jul 22.