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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 0°C
Dominic Lipinski

As it happened: Irish and UK reaction as Theresa May announces she will step down as party leader

She will leave the role of Conservative Party leader.

LAST UPDATE | May 24th 2019, 11:50 AM

THERESA MAY HAS announced that she will step down as Conservative Party leader on 7 June. 

The British Prime Minister spoke to the press outside Downing Street this morning, where she said she had fought hard to deliver her Brexit deal, but had not succeeded. 

She will remain in the post until a successor is appointed. Here’s how the news was received 

It finally happened. Theresa May has announced that she will step down as Conservative Party leader on 7 June.

The Prime Minister broke down into tears as she delivered the final words of her speech outside 10 Downing Street saying it has been “the honour of my life” to be the “second female prime minister, but certainly not the last.”

Several of May’s cabinet members have paid tribute to their departing leader. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the NHS will have an extra £20 billion thanks to her support.

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has released a statement wishing May the best in the future.

“I got to know Theresa May very well over the last two years. She is principled, honourable, and deeply passionate about doing her best for her country, and her party,” he said.

Politicians throughout the EU have admired her tenacity, her courage, and her determination during what has been a difficult and challenging time.

“Theresa May strove to chart a new future for the United Kingdom. I want to wish her the very best for the future.

“And I look forward to working closely with her successor,” he added.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also wished the departing leader well and thanked her “for her service”.

The SNP leader also called for a general election saying: “it feels deeply wrong for another Tory to be installed in Number 10 without a General Election.” 

Back on the home front Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has issued a stark warning about the prospect of a hard Brexit.

“I think anything is possible now. Britain needs to be careful. From an EU perspective, patience has run out. The EU wants to get on with very challenging political questions,” the Minister said on Newstalk.

Coveney also issued a warning to British politicians who believe that the EU will grant another extension to the Brexit deadline.

“The assumption that some have in the UK that they’ll simply be able to ask for another extension, and they’ll get it with no strings attached, is naive. An extension is possible, likely,” he said.

I think many in the UK see this process as humiliating to Britain. It’s a proud country, a great country. People in Britain are sick of it. They want to move. I’d love Britain to stay in the EU. Everybody is losing here. I think the reality is that Britain is likely to leave and there’ll be more and more pressure on whoever is in government to deliver.

“Me and Taoiseach will ensure Irish interests are protected,” the foreign affairs minister added.

Boris Johnson, who is the front runner to be the next Tory leader, has had his say on May’s “dignified statement”.

Another call for a general election!

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has said that May was right to resign. He added that the Tories are incapable of governing the UK and a general election is needed.

May’s  emotional speech appears to have been well received by some of her colleagues. Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, described it as “incredibly moving”, while Anber Rudd, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,  said May “has shown great courage”.

When she does depart 10 Downing Street Theresa May’s run as Prime Minister will have been one of the shortest terms in more than 100 years. However it’s not the shortest this century as she’s set to overtake Gordon Brown at the end of May.

Many have paid tribute to Theresa May’s resilience in the flood of reaction to her announcement.

However Labour politician Yvette Cooper, who Brexit followers may remember from her amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement, believes May’s resilience was her “greatest weakness”. 

“It prevented her from properly reaching out,” she said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said “at a personal level this is clearly a very difficult day for Mrs May.

“Her fate is a reflection of the emerging and ongoing crisis in British politics as a result of Brexit and is a reminder of how unstable and potentially damaging this process remains,” he added.

Micheál Martin said that the contest to succede May could potentially further destabilise the Brexit process.

In Ireland, those of us entrusted with positions of leadership must remain vigilant and stay alert to the threat of a no deal Brexit.

“Our hope will be that her replacement is someone with the skills and determination to achieve the compromise needed to allow the UK and the EU to move on,” he said.

The emotion May displayed at the end of her speech has left the leader of the newly minted pro-European Change UK party, Heidi Allen, wondering what might have been.

DUP Leader Arlene Foster thanked Theresa May for her “willingness to recognise Northern Ireland’s need for additional resources through Confidence and Supply arrangements”.

The DUP backed May’s government in the aftermath of the 2017 general election.

“Whilst at times there were differences in our approach, particularly on Brexit, we enjoyed a respectful and courteous relationship,” Foster said.

In particular, I commend and thank the Prime Minister for her dutiful approach on national issues and her willingness to recognise Northern Ireland’s need for additional resources through Confidence and Supply arrangements.

“I pay tribute to her selfless service in the interests of the United Kingdom and wish her well for the future,” she concluded.

In case you didn’t catch it earlier here’s footage of Theresa May’s statement in front of 10 Downing Street.

The prime minister broke down in tears while delivering the final sentences.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage says May’s downfall was misjudging the “mood of the country and her party”.

The race to replace the departing prime minister will officially kick off when May resigns as Tory party leader on 7 June.

The Conservative Party backbench 1922 Committee will set out the terms of the contest. BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg is reporting that the new leader will be in place before the end of July.

Kuenssberg said this comparatively short contest will help “well known candidates”. Boris Johnson is currently the favourite to land the job.

May will remain as Prime Minister until her successor is appointed.

A spokesperson for the Spanish government said a hard Brexit seems “almost impossible to avoid” following the announcement of May’s departure, according to Reuters.

“A hard Brexit seems a reality that is almost impossible to avoid,” Isabel Celaa said in a press conference.

Celaa added that the Spanish government has contingency plans for all eventual Brexit outcomes.

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has also paid tribute to Theresa May.

May’s predecessor, David Cameron, has released a statement on her resignation saying she “should be thanked for her tireless efforts”.

Following an outpouring of reaction in the immediate aftermath of May’s statement, attention has already turned to speculation about who her replacement will be.

You can follow all the twists and turns on today and throughout the weeks ahead.

Wrapping up the live blog I’ll leave you with some photos from May’s emotional statement.

BRITAIN-LONDON-THERESA MAY Xinhua News Agency / PA Images Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

BRITAIN-LONDON-THERESA MAY Xinhua News Agency / PA Images Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

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