LONDON (AP) — Theresa May says she will step down as U.K. Conservative Party leader on June 7, sparking a contest to become Britain’s next prime minister.
She will stay as caretaker prime minister until the new leader is chosen, a process likely to take several weeks.
May has bowed to relentless pressure from her party to quit over her failure to take Britain out of the European Union on schedule.
Her departure will trigger a party leadership contest in which any Conservative lawmaker can run. The early front-runner is Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary and strong champion of Brexit.
Britain is currently due to leave the EU on Oct. 31, but Parliament has yet to approve divorce terms.
May’s departure speech is drawing praise from fellow Conservative Party members, including some who had criticized her Brexit stance.
Andrea Leadsom, who resigned as House of Commons Leader on Wednesday to protest May’s Brexit plan, tweeted that May’s speech was “an illustration of her total commitment to country and duty.”
Leadsom, a possible leadership contender, said May “did her utmost” and praised the dignity of the prime minister’s speech.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove tweeted his thanks to the prime minister. He called it, “A moving speech from a Prime Minister who deserves our respect and gratitude.”
Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, a frequent critic of May, says she is worried May’s decision will bring “an even more hardline” Brexit-backer to power.