British Prime Minister Theresa May’s dramatic announcement that she’s stepping down as Conservative Party leader on June 7 has inevitably sparked questions about what happens next – and crucially – what happens with Brexit.
First and foremost, a leadership race will be held to find a new leader of the party who will then take the reins of the country. No national election is needed for a change of prime minister.
May said that the contest will begin the week after she resigns, a move that will officially be triggered by the 1922 Committee, also known as the Conservative Private Members' Committee. Party officials will set a specific date for the closing of nominations.
While the next Conservative premier is being picked, the departing prime minister is expected to stay in a “caretaker” position.
Media reports suggest one of the reasons Theresa May set June 7 as the departure date is due to her wish to serve longer than the last Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose own premiership was seen as a failure. He served 2 years, 319 days, while May will overtake that figure next Tuesday.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement that she will leave 10 Downing Street has set off a fierce competition to succeed her as Conservative Party leader and as the next prime minister, with Boris Johnson being the party’s favorite. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira, File)
The timing of her departure means May will still greet President Trump during his state visit to Britain on June 3-5, which is supposed to be a far more high-profile visit than his first visit last year.
This also means that May will be attending the EU summit on June 20-21, which was supposed to be particularly important for breaking the Brexit deadlock.
It remains unclear how this will all affect Brexit negotiations, a detail that will likely be worked out after the new prime minister arrives. The next prime minister will face a fairly different European Union. The results of the European Parliament election will be announced on May 26, with the new parliament actually meeting on July 2.
Boris Johnson, the early frontrunner to take over as Prime Minister, and a staunch Brexiteer, has already indicated Britain should be willing to leave the E.U. on October, 31, the new revised deadline date, without a deal. Jean-Claude Juncker, the E.U. Commission President, will himself be replaced by a new Commission chief, in November.
"We will leave the E.U. on October 31, deal or no deal," Johnson told an economic conference in Switzerland Friday. "The way to get a good deal is to prepare for a no deal."
France's President Emmanuel Macron has already said he wants to see a "rapid clarification" over Britain's departure, while Spanish government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa said a no-deal Brexit may be "impossible to stop". Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, said Brussels would not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement already in place.
The Conservative party constitution states that the 1922 Committee presents the candidates to the party “as soon as reasonably practical,” meaning the actual contest could technically be called earlier.
All Conservative lawmakers are eligible to run for the position, with the 313 Conservative members of Parliament voting for candidates in a series of elimination rounds. The candidate with the lowest number of votes drops out and voting continues until there are two contenders left.
The final two candidates are then put to a vote of the full party membership across the country, about 120,000 people.
Conservative Party officials say that the process of finding the next leader of the party could take as long as up to July 20, the day Parliament goes into summer recess.
Conservative MPs are expected to narrow down the list of contenders to two by the end of June. The remaining two candidates will then engage with the party membership in a bid to win their vote.
In the last leadership contest in 2016, which came after the Brexit vote that forced then-Prime Minister David Cameron to resign, May won after all the candidates dropped out.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.