TEMPO.CO, London - Fighting back tears, Theresa May said on Friday she would quit after failing to deliver Brexit, setting up a contest that will install a new British prime minister who could pursue a cleaner break with the European Union.
May's departure deepens the Brexit crisis as a new leader, who should be in place by the end of July, is likely to want a more decisive split, raising the chances of a confrontation with the EU and potentially a snap parliamentary election.
Former foreign minister Boris Johnson, the favorite to replace May, was first out of the blocks, saying Britain should be prepared to leave the EU without a deal to force the bloc to offer a "good deal".
Current foreign minister Jeremy Hunt also confirmed he would run for the leadership just hours after May, her voice cracking with emotion, said she would resign as Conservative Party leader on Friday, June 7, setting up a contest to succeed her.
"I will shortly leave the job that has been the honor of my life to hold," May said outside her Downing Street official residence with her husband, Philip, looking on the second female prime minister, but certainly not the last.
"I do so with no ill will but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love," she said.
Theresa May, once a reluctant supporter of EU membership who won the top job in the turmoil that followed the 2016 Brexit referendum, steps down with her central pledge - to lead the United Kingdom out of the bloc and heal its divisions - unfulfilled.
"It is, and will always remain, a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit," May said, adding that her successor would have to find a consensus to honor the 2016 referendum result.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said the new prime minister must hold an election to "let the people decide our country's future".