The Wall Street Journal

Theresa May Resigns: What's Next for Brexit?

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Theresa May announced her plan to step down as British prime minister without completing the Brexit process, marking the start of a delicate political transition for the U.K. WSJ's Max Colchester explains what happens next. Photo: Reuters


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- I will shortly leave the job that it 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.
- British Prime Minister Theresa May announced
she'll be stepping down
after failing to deliver on Brexit.
Her primary objective as prime minister
was to get Brexit through Parliament.
But after many fights, (Parliament booing)
in an effort to get her Brexit deal through
Mrs. May tried to reach a compromise agreement
with the opposition Labour Party,
which sparked a rebellion in her own conservative group.
Many of her own members of Parliament were aghast
when she offered the prospect of potentially holding
a second Brexit referendum,
which could have canceled the project all together.
- I have done everything I can to convince MPs
to back that deal.
Sadly, I have not been able to do so.
- Now Mrs. May's departure makes things
even more complicated for the United Kingdom.
So, where do we go from here?
- On Friday, the 7th of June.
- Mrs. May on Friday announced that she would
be stepping down as conservative party leader on June 7th.
However, she will remain as prime minister
until a successor is chosen, and that could take awhile.
- [Man] About 120,000 conservative members
will have a vote in the process.
- In the meantime, she will host Donald Trump,
who is due to visit the UK
on the week beginning the 3rd of June.
(audience applauding)
Behind the scenes, the succession race
has already been going on for months,
and observers say there is a clear front runner.
- I want a better deal for the people of this country.
- Yup, Euro-skeptic Boris Johnson.
He faces competition from former government minister
Andrea Leadsom, amongst others.
Mr. Johnson is a long-time Brexit cheerleader
who foes what many call a hard Brexit.
He has spoke previously in favor
of potentially leaving the EU without a deal
to smooth the divorce process.
Something that critics say could cause
huge economic harm to the UK.
So what does it mean for Brexit?
Whoever takes over for Mrs. May will face
many of the same problems that dogged her
during her tenure.
Parliament remains deeply divided
over how best to leave the EU.
Meanwhile, Mrs. May's deal that took many months
to negotiate with the EU
is unlikely to be completely scrapped
and will form the basis of any future discussion
with the trade bloc.
Then there is the issue of timing.
The UK is due to leave the EU on October 31st,
which leaves any new prime minister very little time
to go back to Brussels to negotiate changes to that deal.
Investors have been worrying about
Theresa May's resignation for several weeks,
sending the pound down against the dollar.
They worry about more uncertainty,
and they worry that the UK will leave
without a deal from the EU,
potentially causing economic pain.
Businesses are also frustrated,
because it is still not clear to them
how or when the UK will actually leave the EU.
Prospects of an orderly separation right now
look dimmer than ever.

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