British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, to attend Prime Minister's Questions at the Houses of Parliament, May 8, 2019. (Matt Dunham / AP)
LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May's time as Conservative Party leader ended Friday, not with a bang but a whimper.
May, who announced her departure two weeks ago after her career was undone by the Brexit mess, formally stepped down in a private exchange of letters with the party, leaving almost a dozen Conservative contenders fighting to replace her and resume the stalled quest to lead Britain out of the European Union.
The second female prime minister in British history spent the day quietly in her home constituency west of London, rather than the prime minister's residence at 10 Downing St.
The second female prime minister in British history spent the day quietly in her home constituency west of London, rather than the prime minister's residence at 10 Downing St
May will remain as acting leader and prime minister for a few weeks while the party picks a successor, who will become the next prime minister.
Conservative lawmakers will hold a secret ballot on Thursday, with any candidates who don't get at least 5% dropping out. Further rounds will be held the following week until the field is narrowed to two.
The final two candidates will meet in a runoff that will be decided in a mail-in vote by the country's approximately 160,000 Conservative Party members. The winner will be announced the week of July 22.
So far, 11 Conservative lawmakers are running to replace May, vowing to succeed where she failed and renegotiate Britain's deal to pull out of the EU.
The bookmakers' favorite to replace May as prime minister, tousle-haired Brexit champion Boris Johnson, has warned that the Conservatives face "extinction" if Britain doesn't leave the EU on Oct 31.
Johnson is one of several contenders — including Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Health Secretary Matt Hancock — promising to go back to Brussels and make changes to the Brexit deal.
This handout photo provided by the 1922 Committee on June 7, 2019 shows the official announcement of the resignation of Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May. (1922 COMMITTEE VIA AP)
"I believe that European leaders want to find a way through this," Gove wrote in the Daily Mail.
But the chances that the other EU countries will consider reopening the legally binding agreement appear slim at best. Even as the Brexit saga has dragged on and the pressure of a potentially disastrous "no-deal" Brexit mounted, no European leader has publicly shown an appetite for renegotiating any part of the 585-page text.
Hard-core Brexiteers in the British leadership contest say they would rather take Britain out of the bloc with no deal than countenance a further delay.
That message resonates with many Conservative members, who are much more pro-Brexit than the British population as a whole.
But most economists and businesses say a no-deal Brexit would cause economic turmoil, imposing obstacles overnight between the UK and the EU, its biggest trading partner.
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