Theresa May in tears as she announces her resignation. Photo: Xinhua.

On May 24, the United Kingdom was served another tough pill when Prime Minister Theresa May announced her resignation, leaving the Brexit program without a leader. As the second woman to serve as British PM, after the late Margaret Thatcher, May was given the tough task of negotiating a deal to leave the European Union after the referendum in 2016. While one can say that she worked hard to find the best deal for her country, the public was not pleased with her work.

In the eyes of many British citizens, May has ignored the demands of the people and broken her promise, particularly in the matters of the Northern Ireland border issues and governance authority under the EU. The people were also not shown a clear roadmap to new British-European trade and economic relations.

Although the so-called Chequers plan tried to appease all sides in terms of economy, security and cooperation, people were still not satisfied, or unified. The lack of consensus in the Brexit matter only fueled the dissatisfaction with May, who was doomed to the political wilderness before she even came to office despite trying her very best to come up with the best Brexit plan.

In terms of party politics, both the ruling Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party had their own motives for putting pressure on May, For the Tories, the likes of former foreign minister Boris Johnson always showed the attitude of not being afraid of taking down the party leader and taking the title for themselves. Johnson and others constantly lobbied for a hard Brexit, which May was trying to avoid.

At the same time, the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn also showed strong attitudes of defiance, as it pushed for a general election and constantly attacked May’s propositions.

As for the EU, the results of the recent European parliamentary elections, as well as changes in the European Commission and Council, are priorities the EU cannot ignore and make time for Brexit.

With the deadline for the UK’s exit from the EU coming on October 31, the appointment of a new prime minister will almost certainly delay the process even further and bring about an even messier Brexit.

This article was first published on and was translated by Kamaran Malik.

Dong Yifan

Dong Yifan specializes in the European economy and the European Union at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

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