Theresa May will today clear the way for Britain to have a new prime minister by the summer.
Allies said that – barring a last-minute change of heart – she will announce plans this morning to step aside as Conservative Party leader next month.
Mrs May will begin the day with a meeting with the Tories’ backbench shop steward Sir Graham Brady to discuss the exact timetable for her departure.
She is then expected to address the nation from Downing Street to explain why she is leaving ‘the job I love’ before she has realised her ambition of leading Britain out of the European Union.
Mrs May is expected to try to delay the start of the Tory leadership race until the week beginning June 10, to allow her to host Donald Trump’s state visit without the indignity of her MPs voting on her successor at the same time.
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Boris Johnson leaves his London home on the day of the European Elections. The former foreign secretary, 54, who quit last July, is the favourite to be the new leaderBut she will stay on as Prime Minister while the Tory leadership contest takes place, allowing a smooth transition to a new leader before the summer recess.
Allies said she was due to discuss the final details of her departure with her husband Philip last night, before publicly making making her intentions clear today.
This morning’s dramatic move, which plunges the future of Brexit into further doubt, comes as:
Mrs May’s decision to announce her plans to step aside came after senior Cabinet ministers warned her they were on the brink of withdrawing their support over her decision to open the door to a second Brexit referendum in a last-ditch bid to get her deal approved by MPs.
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Jeremy Hunt arrives for a Cabinet meeting in Downing Street, on Tuesday. He is one of the favourites to be Conservative leaderForeign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Mrs May to abandon plans to put her Withdrawal Agreement Bill to a vote by MPs next month.
Mr Hunt, one of more than a dozen Tory MPs hoping to succeed her, said it was not fair to ask loyal MPs to vote for a toxic compromise that had no chance of succeeding. Home Secretary Sajid Javid, another potential leadership candidate, warned her he could not back the legislation unless she dropped the option of a second referendum.
Their interventions followed the resignation of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, who quit on Wednesday night in protest at the scale of the concessions to Labour.
Sir Graham will arrive for today’s meeting armed with the results of a secret ballot of senior Tories which is thought to authorise him to call an immediate vote of no confidence in her leadership if she refuses to go.
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited A Survation poll for the Daily Mail shows Mr Farage’s Brexit Party well ahead in the European elections on 31 per cent, trailed by Labour on 23, the Conservatives on 14 and the Lib Dems on 12Mrs May told MPs on Wednesday that her ‘new deal’ Brexit – which was designed to win over Labour MPs – would be published today and voted on in the week beginning June 3.
But the move was dropped after Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay, who would have to oversee the legislation, said he could not support it in its current form.
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Britain’s former Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom leaving her home after handing in her resignation on WednesdayOne of Mrs May’s closest Cabinet allies said he expected her to name a date for her departure today, but added: ‘No-one knows her mind for certain. She will talk to Philip (her husband) tonight before making a final decision.
‘It’s a very personal decision – in many ways, it’s a very lonely decision.
‘But I think she will be taking a message to Sir Graham that she is ready to go.’
The Mail revealed yesterday that Mrs May had accepted her time was up and was ready to announce plans for a ‘dignified’ departure.
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Dominic Raab campaigning in Peterborough ahead of the European elections. Mr Raab has been critical of Theresa May over Brexit and is one of the favourites for the leadershipFormer Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said if Mrs May refused to heed the message from her MPs and Cabinet it was up to her husband to tell her that her time was up.
He told Talk Radio: ‘The person closest to her is clearly her husband, and I think somebody has to say look, nobody likes this… Politics is a nasty, sometimes brutal, ghastly business.
‘But the reality is that she has no confidence any longer, not just in her party but in the Cabinet as well. So the best thing for her and the best thing for everybody else is to break away and say it’s time to find a new leader.’
Allies of Mrs May last night dismissed suggestions that she had been forced out by the line of ministers beating a path to her door.
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited A jubilant Nigel Farage outside a polling station in Kent on Thursday with his Brexit Party apparently racing towards victory. A Survation poll for the Daily Mail shows Mr Farage’s Brexit Party well ahead in the European elections on 31 per cent, trailed by Labour on 23, the Conservatives on 14 and the Lib Dems on 12One said: ‘It is funny – and slightly pathetic – to see Sajid and Jeremy suddenly saying the deal is unacceptable after sitting through the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that approved it. Leadsom stole a march on them – they are scrabbling to catch up.’
It comes as a Survation poll for the Daily Mail shows Mr Farage’s Brexit Party well ahead in the European elections on 31 per cent, trailed by Labour on 23, the Conservatives on 14 and the Lib Dems on 12.
Nearly seven out of ten Tory voters said the reason they did not intend to vote for Mrs May yesterday was because of her failure to deliver Brexit. Calls for her to step down were backed by 57 per cent of Conservatives with 25 per cent against.
With the Tory leadership contest about to begin, most of the party’s supporters appear to have already decided that former Foreign Secretary Johnson is the best person to revive their dismal ratings and sort out the Brexit chaos.
A total of 36 per cent of Conservatives said he should be next leader, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid a distant second on nine per cent, followed by Environment Secretary Michael Gove on seven and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on five.
The highest placed women candidates are Andrea Leadsom, who resigned from the Cabinet on Wednesday, and fellow Brexiteer, former TV presenter Esther McVey.
Both are on three per cent. Mr Johnson has almost as big a lead over his Conservative rivals among voters as a whole. With the Tories expected to choose a new leader by the end of July, his fellow leadership contenders will have their work cut out to close the gap.