British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected on Friday to announce the date of her departure, triggering a contest that will bring a new leader to power who is likely to push for a more decisive Brexit divorce deal.
After a crisis-riven premiership of almost three years, May is due to meet the chairman of the powerful Conservative 1922 Committee, which can make or break prime ministers, to set out a timetable for her departure.
The treasurer of the 1922 Committee, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, said May would stay on as a caretaker prime minister while a successor is chosen.
“It would be much tidier if she stays on as caretaker while we go through our processes of electing a leader of the Conservative Party who will then eventually take over as prime minister,” Clifton-Brown told the BBC.
May, once a reluctant supporter of EU membership who won the top job in the turmoil that followed the 2016 Brexit vote, steps down with her central pledges – to lead the United Kingdom out of the bloc and heal its divisions – unfulfilled.
She endured repeated crises and humiliation in her effort to find a compromise Brexit deal that parliament could ratify but she bequeaths a deeply divided country and a political elite that is deadlocked over how, whether or if to leave the EU.
May will remain in office during a Conservative Party leadership election lasting about six weeks. The contest is likely to start on June 10 after US President Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain.
The leading contenders to succeed May all want a tougher divorce deal so May’s departure raises the chances of a confrontation with the EU – which has said it will not renegotiate the Withdrawal Treaty it sealed in November.
Boris Johnson, the face of the official Brexit campaign, is the favourite to succeed May. Betting markets put a 40 per cent implied probability on Johnson winning the top job.
Others tipped by betting markets are Dominic Raab, a Brexit supporter and former Brexit Secretary. Betting markets put a 14 per cent implied probability on his chances.
Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt each have a 7 per cent probability, according to betting markets. Sajid Javid has a 3 per cent chance, betting markets indicate.