Theresa May to Step Down If Parliament Backs Brexit Plan

Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Since July 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May has done the job few members of Parliament had any real desire to do, guiding the United Kingdom toward a Brexit plan that wouldn’t hurl the country into chaos and recession. She may not have to do that job for much longer. On Wednesday, May offered a bargain to Tory lawmakers: she would step down as prime minister if they agreed to back a plan that would avoid a catastrophic no-deal Brexit.

“I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party,” Mrs. May told Tory lawmakers. “I know there is a desire for a new approach, and new leadership, in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that.”

May did not give a timeline for when she would resign from her position, though her advisers reportedly told her that the only way to gain enough momentum to get the 70 additional votes for the deal would be to step down. Last week, the European Union announced that it would allow the U.K. to extend the Brexit process to May 22, if a plan was approved in Parliament.

Shortly after May’s announcement, speculation began over who might take over as Prime Minister if Tory PMs agree to May’s stipulation. Possible frontrunners reportedly include Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who has voted for May’s Brexit plans; David Lidington, May’s close ally, who is considered her preferred candidate; and Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary and mayor of London who has frustrated May throughout the Brexit process.

May’s announcement comes two days after members of Parliament voted to take control of the Brexit process, in a process that would involve MPs proposing alternatives to May’s Brexit plan. At the moment, Speaker of the House John Bercow has proposed eight Brexit plans MPs will vote on, ranging from “soft Brexit” deals that keep Britain fairly close to the EU, as well as the dreaded no-deal option. Voting is expected to begin at 7 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time.

MPs are also voting on a possible delay to the Brexit timeline, extending it until April 12 to propose a plan, with an additional extension until May 22 to finalize any deal that passes a vote.

Throughout the Brexit process, May has faced historic rebukes from Parliament, including two votes in which her withdrawal plan was rejected by embarrassing margins. “I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party,” May told Tory MPs, offering to make her most drastic effort yet in the nearly three-year Brexit process.

This post has been updated.

Theresa May to Step Down If Parliament Backs Brexit Plan