British PM Theresa May to Step Down June 7

LONDON - British Prime Minister Theresa May will step down on June 7, succumbing to calls in her governing Conservative Party to make way for a new leader to try to break an impasse over Britain's departure from the European Union.

"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," May said.

May was once a reluctant supporter of EU membership who won the top job in the turmoil that followed the 2016 Brexit vote. She'll step down with her central pledges - to lead the United Kingdom out of the bloc and heal its divisions - unfulfilled. May endured repeated crises and humiliation in her efforts to find a compromise Brexit deal that Parliament could ratify, and bequeaths a deeply divided country and a political elite that is deadlocked over how, when or whether to leave the EU.

After announcing her resignation, May became visibly emotional as she said it had been "the honour of my life" to serve "the country that I love" before returning to the prime minister's office at 10 Downing Street.

Pressure on May to quit over her failure to get Parliament's approval for a European Union divorce deal reached a critical point this week as House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom quit and several cabinet colleagues expressed doubts about the Brexit bill. With her authority draining away by the hour, May on Thursday delayed plans to publish the EU withdrawal bill - her fourth attempt to secure Parliament's backing for her Brexit blueprint.

May will stay as caretaker prime minister until the new leader is chosen. The leadership election is likely to last about six weeks, starting on June 10, after U.S. President Donald Trump's state visit to Britain.

Boris Johnson, the face of the official Brexit campaign in 2016, is the favourite to succeed May. Betting markets put a 40 per cent implied probability on Johnson winning the top job. Others tipped by betting markets are Dominic Raab, a Brexit supporter and former Brexit secretary, Leadsom, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker says he considers May as "a woman of courage for whom he has great respect".EU spokesperson Mina Andreeva said Juncker watched May's announcement that she will step down "with emotion" and it was "without personal joy".

Samuel Tombs, chief U.K. economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said "changing the leader won't alter the maths in Parliament." He said he expects Britain will remain stuck in political stalemate for at least another year, requiring an extension to its Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.

The pound and British stocks rose after news of May's resignation, as some investors appeared to hope it could unblock the political stalemate over Brexit, though analysts warn it could simply mean another delay to the EU departure. The pound rose to $1.2715 US on Friday from $1.2660 before the announcement. The FTSE 100 stock index was up 0.6 per cent.
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