British Prime Minister Theresa May bowed to Conservative Party critics Wednesday and said she would quit as the country’s leader once Britain had split from the European Union, but it was unclear when she might step down.
May, whose Brexit deal she negotiated with EU leaders has twice been overwhelmingly rejected by the House of Commons, said she would quit as prime minister “earlier than I intended” in hopes of winning passage of her divorce deal from the 28-nation bloc.
Her comments to Tory lawmakers were the first she made about leaving No. 10 Downing Street, even as her Brexit plan was defeated by 230 votes in January and by 149 votes earlier this month.
“I know there is a desire for a new approach — and new leadership — in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that,” she said.
Her intentions became known as Parliament prepared to vote on new Brexit plans.
The House of Commons was planning a five-hour debate on several plans, with lawmakers being asked to vote for any of the proposals they could accept. The intention then is to hold a second vote next Monday on the most popular plans in the hope that one can win majority support.
Wednesday’s debate is occurring two days after the parliamentarians wrested control over the Brexit debate from the government.
May said she would consider support for other plans as “indicative votes,” but she has refused to say she will adhere to the result.
There are 16 options under consideration, including proposals for leaving the 28-nation EU without details of a departure in place, remaining in the EU and holding a new nationwide referendum on the issue.
Britons voted nearly three years ago to leave the EU, but as Friday’s scheduled departure date grew near, so did turmoil over terms of the deal May negotiated with EU leaders. The contention centered on trade and the border between EU member Ireland and London-controlled Northern Ireland, which local residents routinely cross daily without stopping.
Last week, the EU said that if Parliament approved the deal it had negotiated with the British government, Brexit would occur May 22. If not, Britain has until April 12 to say what it plans to do.
May hopes to put her plan up for another vote, despite the decisive earlier losses.
Pro-Brexit members of her Conservative Party had called for her resignation, but until Wednesday she had resisted.
“It is my sense of responsibility and duty that has meant I have kept working to ensure Brexit is delivered,” she said.
Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn contended that May was “unable to compromise and unable to reunite the country.” He said May must “either listen and change course or go.”