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Theresa May To Resign As British Prime Minister On June 7

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In London today, Theresa May stepped out her front door at No. 10 Downing Street and, in a jaunty red suit but with a shaking voice, announced she's out as British prime minister.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: I will shortly leave the job that has been the honor of my life to hold - the second female prime minister, but certainly, not the last. I do so with no ill will but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.

KELLY: Theresa May will officially resign on June 7, prompting all kinds of questions about what comes next, including who might take over for May and what might her exit mean for Brexit. Well, thankfully, we've got George Parker on the line from London. He is political editor for the Financial Times. Welcome back.

GEORGE PARKER: Hello.

KELLY: Hello. Any way to read today's developments, other than about the inevitable?

PARKER: Yes. I mean, some people have said it was almost inevitable from the moment Theresa May called an election in 2017 and lost her parliamentary majority, and for the last two years, she's been struggling on, trying to deliver this Brexit result from the referendum in 2016 in increasingly desperate ways, I think. And in the end, she bowed to the inevitable. And it was a very emotional scene. She turned and walked back through the door of Downing Street with a crack in her voice, tears in her eyes, and as she walked back through, staff had lined up inside the waiting hall there to clap her back in. But it's a sad and, ultimately, I think, inevitable departure.

KELLY: Well, let's talk about who might be the next person to step through the door of No. 10 Downing Street, her successor. Our London correspondent Frank Langfitt, who we're actually going to hear from in a moment on the show, he was on air this morning saying the race to succeed her as prime minister is going to - not going to be a question of who's running but who isn't. Do you agree with that?

PARKER: I think we've counted somewhere between 15 and 20 people who've said they either are considering or will definitely be contesting the leadership, of whom the clear favorite is the famous Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary who is seen as far ahead of all the other candidates.

KELLY: Theresa May gave it her all for three years. She wasn't able to get Brexit done. What are the prospects that whoever follows her will fare better?

PARKER: Well, this is the problem because Theresa May, in the end, rather reluctantly agreed the only way to get Brexit through was to try to reach out across the aisle to opposition parties. Now, the problem is that the Conservative Party are going to elect a leader who is more pro-Brexit than Theresa May, someone who's probably prepared to take Britain out of the European Union without any sort of deal in quite a disruptive way. And if they come back with that kind of proposal to the House of Commons, it's quite likely the House of Commons will again say, no, we're not prepared to see Britain leave without a deal.

KELLY: I mean, it sounds as though from where you sit, as someone who's tracked British politics closely for years, Theresa May's departure may, if anything, increase the chances of either a no-deal Brexit, where Britain just crashes out, or of some kind of redo of the referendum?

PARKER: I think that's right. I mean, Boris Johnson was saying today, within hours of Theresa May announcing her resignation, that Britain would definitely leave the European Union on the 31 of October, come what may. I mean, the removal of the prime minister, it seems to me, is almost displacement activity for politicians who can't confront the fact that Brexit has got to be dealt with one way or the other. And probably the only way you can deal with it is through a compromise, but nobody's prepared to make that compromise.

So we'll have a carnival of the next six weeks where the Conservative Party goes about choosing a new leader in a fairly acrimonious way, the party being ripped apart, at the end of which the position on Brexit will be no clearer.

KELLY: That is George Parker of the Financial Times in London. Thank you so much.

PARKER: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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