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Thousands of people gathered in the center of London Saturday to demand a second Brexit referendum so that Britons can rethink whether they want to leave the European Union. (March 23)
AP, AP

LONDON — Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday offered to step aside to break a deadlock over her unpopular plan to leave the European Union. 

May said she would not stay on as prime minister once the country has left the EU. She didn’t set a departure date. May has been Britain’s leader since 2016. 

The vow to quit was made to persuade lawmakers to support her EU exit deal. 

“I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party,” May told lawmakers from her Conservative Party. “I ask everyone in this room to back the deal so we can complete our historic duty – to deliver on the decision of the British people and leave the European Union with a smooth and orderly exit,” she told the 1922 Committee, an influential group of lawmakers.

British Prime Minister, Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London on Feb. 2018. (Photo: EPA-EFE)

The EU withdrawal deal May has agreed to with European leaders has already been rejected twice by British lawmakers because they don’t feel it does enough to disentangle Britain from the EU. British parliamentarians have started voting this week on a series of options related to Britain’s break from the EU, known as Brexit. 

These options include reversing Brexit and leaving the bloc without a final divorce deal. Economists say the latter scenario risks serious harm to Britain’s economy and could lead to travel chaos and shortages of essential medicines. 

The process could extend into next week, but May has also hinted that she wants to bring her controversial deal back to Parliament by Friday. No decision has been made. 

Some lawmakers have said they would only back May’s deal if she announced a date to step down. The EU has given Britain until April 12 to come up with an alternative Brexit plan if May is not able to get her deal with the EU through Parliament.

Anna Soubry, a former Conservative lawmaker who recently left May’s party to join a breakaway cross-party group known as the Independent Group, was quick to criticize what she said were hardline pro-Brexit voices that forced May out.

“So hard Brexiteers will vote for the PMs ‘deal’ not because it’s good for our country and the right thing to do – not even because it delivers Brexit but because it gets rid of the PM #Shameful,” Soubry wrote on Twitter.

More: UK Parliament acts to avert ‘absolute catastrophe’ Brexit

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Unlike in the United States, Britain does not elect a leader. It elects a party. This means that when May leaves office her ruling Conservative Party will still be in power as long as it can agree on who should replace her. If it can’t, there will be an election. 

May, 62, won her leadership role in the aftermath of David Cameron’s resignation in 2016. He stepped down after miscalculating that Britain would vote to stay in the EU.

May is Britain’s second female prime minister after Margaret Thatcher (1979-90) and made a name for herself while serving in Cameron’s cabinet as home secretary. While in that role she took a strict line on drugs policy, immigration and fighting terrorism.  

There are no out-and-out front runners to succeed her, although one name that is never far from political scientists’ short lists is Boris Johnson, 54, the former gaffe-prone mayor of London and ex-foreign secretary who has for years struggled to hide his ambition to be Britain’s leader. Johnson is known for his colorful rhetoric, unashamed support for Brexit and love of Winston Churchill. In a USA TODAY interview in 2014, New York-born Johnson said his chance of becoming Britain’s prime minister was about as good as finding Elvis on Mars or being reincarnated as an olive.

 

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