Theresa May confirmed this morning that she will step down as prime minister on 7 June, a move that will trigger a leadership contest in a party deeply divided by the vexed issue of Brexit.
Standing outside 10 Downing Street this morning, Theresa May said: "I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen."
She said the fact that she has been unable to deliver Brexitr was a matter of "deep regret." The prime minister failed three times to get her controversial deal with the EU, the withdrawal agreement, through Parliament.
Her stepping down is likely to exacerbate an already deep Brexit crisis, making both a snap general election and confrontation with Brussels more likely. The leading candidates for the top job are all Brexiteers of varying degrees, and all are seeking a tougher line with the EU.
The EU, however, has repeated that it will not be open to renegotiate the withdrawal treaty Britain signed with the bloc of 27 member states in November last year.
May reminded her eventual successor that "a consensus can only be reached if those on all sides of the debate are willing to compromise."
Her voice wavering, she ended her speech by saying: "I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold. 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."
Although she is stepping down as party leader on 7 June, May will stay on as prime minister until a successor is chosen.
The pound rose slightly on the news, to €1.132, then held steady, though remained significantly below a 12-month high of 1.177 in April. A day before the Brexit vote in July 2016, one pound was worth €1.305.