London: Theresa May on Friday announced that she is quitting as UK Conservative leader on June 7, sparking a contest for Britain's new Prime Minister.
She stepped down after failing to win over her ministers with a revised strategy over her plans for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.
It is expected that May, 62, will stay on in Downing Street as caretaker Prime Minister to oversee the state visit of US President Donald Trump, planned for early June, with a new Tory leader expected to be in place by the end of July.
"Our politics may be under strain but there is so much that is good about this country. So much to be proud of. So much to be optimistic about," she said.
May said it has been “the honour of my life” to be the “second female prime minister, but certainly not the last.”
Her voice cracked as she said it has been an honour to have the opportunity to serve the country she loves.
May, who has been under constant pressure to step down since having survived a vote of no-confidence in December 2018, had even announced that she would set out her Downing Street exit plan once she had seen the first stage of Brexit through.
However, that exit has been precipitated as it became clear that the first stage of Brexit, passage of her Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, is unlikely to go through a fourth parliamentary vote.
Voters are expected to punish both the Tories and the Opposition Labour Party for being forced to vote in a European Union (EU) elections despite the June 2016 referendum in favour of Brexit. The UK was to have left the 28-member economic bloc by March 29 but failed to meet that deadline and now faces a renewed Brexit deadline of October 31.
The next stage of negotiations with the EU are now likely to be taken ahead by a new incumbent in Downing Street, with former foreign secretary Boris Johnson seen as a frontrunner from the pro-Brexit wing of the ruling party.
However, a host of other contenders are expected to throw their hat in the ring, including fellow Brexiteer Dominic Raab as well as Cabinet ministers Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Amber Rudd and Matt Hancock.
The UK Parliament has remained in deadlock since it rejected May's Brexit deal negotiated with the EU three times. The biggest sticking point has been the Irish backstop clause, which Brexiteers believe will be used to keep Britain tied to EU rules even after Brexit.
May's attempts to find a formal compromise with the Opposition Labour benches to try and win another Commons vote also ended in failure and resulted in her adding a series of sops to her rejected deal, including the offer of a parliamentary vote on a second referendum in response to demands from a large chunk of Opposition MPs.
However, the sops had the effect of only further angering her already divided Cabinet and hastened the end of her time as British Prime Minister with just under three years in power since she took charge in July 2016 weeks after the Brexit referendum.