Theresa May to resign as UK Prime Minister
After defying political gravity for three years, Theresa May brought her tortured tenure as prime minister to a close on Friday.
"I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honor of my life to hold," she said outside Downing Street, her voice quivering in the morning sunshine. And with that, she's off -- or at least she will be later in the summer, once a new Conservative leader is elected.
Her statement sets up a few more hectic weeks of political drama in Westminster. For now, though, we're following May's lead and getting out of here.
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Theresa May has been criticized for referring in her resignation speech to the Grenfell Tower fire, a disaster that will be remembered as a low point in her tenure.
While listing her domestic achievements in the statement on Friday, May said: "I set up the independent public inquiry into the tragedy at Grenfell Tower – to search for the truth, so nothing like it can ever happen again."
She added that she used her premiership "to fight the burning injustices that still scar our society."
72 people died when the tower block in west London caught fire in July 2017, and May was heavily criticized for Conservative policies before the disaster and her slow response in the aftermath.
That criticism intensified after her resignation speech. "Many of the underlying issues at Grenfell were due to unsafe conditions that had been allowed to fester under Tory governments," Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said in a statement.
"For the outgoing Prime Minister to suggest that her awful response to Grenfell is a proud part of her legacy is, frankly, disgraceful," he added.
Emma Dent Coad, the Labour MP of the London borough in which Grenfell Tower is located, added: "From the first day of her awkward visit to Grenfell, to her last day congratulating herself for failures, Theresa May should be ashamed of her actions and lack of leadership."
May wasn't particularly noted for going off-script, but her interviews and speeches provided a number of memorable quotes. Here's a collection of her greatest hits.
"Brexit means Brexit": Sometimes but not always followed with the pay-off "And we're going to make a success of it," May gave the public a first glimpse of her tendency to repeat pre-prepared soundbites with this classic number, which is simultaneously crystal clear and entirely meaningless.
"No deal is better than a bad deal": May set out her hardline credentials ahead of her negotiations with the EU, repeating over and over again that she was willing to walk away from discussions with no deal.
"Red, white and blue Brexit": It's easy to forget, but the early days of the Brexit process were dominated by politicians discussing the various different colors, textures and shapes that Brexit could take. There was a hard Brexit and a soft Brexit, a black Brexit and a white Brexit, and May's offer: "I want a red, white and blue Brexit," she told reporters in late 2016.
"Citizens of nowhere": May infuriated Remainers in her 2016 speech at the Conservative Party conference, telling a packed hall: "If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means."
"Strong and stable": The mind-numbing slogan of her 2017 general election campaign, May's favorite soundbite became synonymous with her robotic style once she started to slide in the polls. She quickly discarded her promise of "strong and stable leadership in the national interest," but not before it had received the social media treatment.
"Fields of wheat": While campaigning during that election, May was asked an admittedly tricky question by an ITV reporter: "What's the naughtiest thing you've ever done?". "Oh goodness me," she replied, a look of genuine terror falling across her face. "Well I suppose... gosh," she offered, before finally settling on her answer. "I have to confess when me and my friends used to run through the fields of wheat, the farmers weren't too pleased about that." The comment, which didn't exactly scream "woman of the people," was widely mocked and partially defined her disastrous campaign.
It began with promise and ended in tears: An emotional Theresa May finally announced the end of her short but tumultuous tenure as the UK's prime minister on Friday, her voice quivering as she spoke.
May's three-year term saw a disastrous general election, two no confidence motions, a series of torturous negotiations with the EU and a handful of geopolitical crises.
But while her failure to deliver Brexit is certain to define her legacy, she'll be remembered for far more besides.
The honeymoon: May was swept into power after a condensed leadership contest, profiting from David Cameron's resignation in the wake of the Brexit vote. Riding high in opinion polls throughout a lengthy honeymoon period, May promised to secure a positive Brexit deal from the European Union -- but threatened to walk away from discussions if she couldn't get one.
Cozying up to Trump: A few months into her tenure, May became the first major world leader to visit the new US President in January 2017. But her visit was dominated in the British media by an unfortunate photograph of her walking hand-in-hand with the President, who is unpopular in the UK.
Humiliation at the polls: The turning point of May's premiership was a catastrophic snap general election in June 2017. Hoping to capitalize on her lead in opinion polls, May's gamble wiped away her parliamentary majority and irreparably damaged her authority.
A woeful campaign, which saw a U-turn over a so-called dementia tax, a damaging refusal to take part in TV debates, and a series of uninspiring slogans including the quickly meme-ified "strong and stable," allowed Jeremy Corbyn to upset the odds and force May into a minority government propped up by the DUP. She shed "a little tear" on election night, she later told the BBC.
Response to Grenfell: Days after May's embarrassment at the ballot box, people around the country watched in horror as Grenfell Tower in west London was engulfed in flames. To many, the disaster in one of Britain's richest boroughs highlighted economic inequalities that had been central to the campaign -- and when May was severely criticized for not meeting with survivors in the wake of the fire, it seemed her new term could be over within days.
Two contrasting conference speeches: May survived the ensuing months, but her position remained fragile when she took to the stage at the Conservative Party conference in 2017. That speech was billed as the biggest of her career -- but a crippling cough, a protester handing her a P45 form, and a set that fell apart behind her back combined to turn the event into a comedy of errors.
A year later, in late 2018, May returned to the stage with a flourish. Making light of her widely-mocked dance moves, she strutted out to Abba's classic "Dancing Queen" before delivering a strong speech. May rarely seemed to be having the time of her life as prime minister, but her musical entrance won a few doubters over.
Salisbury poisoning: The prime minister won plaudits for her response to the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in 2018. While opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn wavered over blaming Russia, May coordinated an unequivocal response that had the backing of international partners including the US.
...and, of course, Brexit: Ultimately, however, May's premiership will be associated with Brexit. Her unpopular pact with the EU, unveiled at a fiery cabinet away day at her Chequers country home, signaled the beginning of the end of her tenure, prompting a rash of resignations from her front bench and leading to three historically crushing defeats in Parliament.
On Friday, the Dancing Queen confirmed the inevitable -- and accepted she had met her Waterloo.
Boris Johnson, the frontrunner to replace May as prime minister, has told an economic conference in Switzerland that Britain should be prepared to leave the EU with no deal.
"We will leave the EU on October 31, deal or no deal," he said, according to Reuters.
"The way to get a good deal is to prepare for a no deal," Johnson added. Economists have warned of the financial impact of a no-deal split, but most of the Conservative leadership prospects have supported such a scenario.
Graham Brady, the head of the influential 1922 Committee of backbenchers, has left his post -- and is considering a run for party leader.
It was Brady who met with May on Friday morning, giving her an opportunity to resign before his mutinous group changed its rules to force her out.
"I have been approached by a number of colleagues across the party both inside and outside Parliament asking me to put myself forward as a candidate," he said, according to Britain's Press Association.
"Therefore I have taken the decision to stand down from the position of chairman of the 1922 Committee in order to ensure a fair and transparent election process.
"I am considering the approaches I have received and will make a furtherstatement in due course. I informed Number 10 and the chairman of the Conservative Party of this this morning," he said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May's resignation is unlikely to end a tough run for the pound, which has fallen steadily this month as the risk of a damaging no-deal Brexit rises.
The pound edged higher to almost $1.27 on Friday following May's announcement that she'll step down in June after failing in her bid to secure Britain's exit from the European Union.
But sterling has dropped 2.9% this month against the US dollar and is the worst performer of the world's 10 major currencies. It's also been on a losing streak against the euro, and there's little sign of the pressure easing up any time soon.
That's because whoever succeeds May as prime minister will face the same Brexit nightmare. The European Union has said it's done discussing the terms of Britain's departure. And the current deal, negotiated by May, faces seemingly insurmountable opposition in Britain's parliament.
"To borrow a phrase, nothing has changed, or at least, very little has," Edwin Morgan, the head of the Institute of Directors, a business lobby group, said in a statement. "A new leader will be faced with the same political challenges and the same economic realities."