Countdown starts for race for Britain's next PM after May prepares to leave

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-17 11:42:12|Editor: Xiang Bo
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LONDON, May 16 -- Countdown for a race for Britain's new prime minister seemingly has clicked, as Theresa May agreed to set a timetable in early June for her departure as the country's prime minister after a painful showdown with backbench politicians of her Conservative Party on Thursday.

During a private meeting with the executive of the 1922 Committee, a body that represents Conservative backbench MPs in the House of Commons, May wanted to delay announcing her departure date before the Parliament's voting on her Brexit bill on June 3, said Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the committee.

May had hoped for a clean handover to a new occupant after safely delivering the result of the 2016 referendum when people in Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU).

But even before it reaches the starting gate, May's plan to try one last chance to get her controversial Brexit deal through the warring House of Commons is seen as being doomed to failure.

That last throw of the dice early June will signal the start of a race to take over as leader of the Conservative Party, and as Prime Minister.

Pressure to persuade May to resign has come amid the deadlock over Brexit and the dismal local election results. The party is also bracing itself for even worse results in next week's European Parliament elections.

Ahead of the formalities, the race has already prematurely started, with former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson saying Thursday he will be a contender.

Other leading members of May's front bench team have also indicated they will join the race.

May will present her Brexit withdrawal bill to MPs in the House of Commons during what will be a two-day debate in early June.

Brady told reporters that the meeting with May will take place after the June vote regardless of whether or not the EU withdrawal agreement bill is passed by MPs.

Mark Francois, vice chairman of the European Research Group of Conservative Eurosceptic MPs, said that, within his group of MPs, opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is increasing.

"Given that Labour have made plain they will oppose it, it seems incredibly unlikely it will receive a second reading in early June," he said.

"In which case, the Prime Minister will be out of options, and the executive of the 1922 Committee will almost certainly have to facilitate a leadership contest among the parliamentary party," said Francois.