LONDON — Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday offered to step aside to break a deadlock over her unpopular plan to leave the European Union.
May said she would not stay on as prime minister once the country has left the EU. She didn’t set a departure date. May has been Britain’s leader since 2016.
The vow to quit was made to persuade lawmakers to support her EU exit deal.
“I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party,” May told lawmakers from her Conservative Party. “I ask everyone in this room to back the deal so we can complete our historic duty – to deliver on the decision of the British people and leave the European Union with a smooth and orderly exit,” she told the 1922 Committee, an influential group of lawmakers.
The EU withdrawal deal May has agreed to with European leaders has already been rejected twice by British lawmakers because they don’t feel it does enough to disentangle Britain from the EU. British parliamentarians have started voting this week on a series of options related to Britain’s break from the EU, known as Brexit.
These options include reversing Brexit and leaving the bloc without a final divorce deal. Economists say the latter scenario risks serious harm to Britain’s economy and could lead to travel chaos and shortages of essential medicines.
The process could extend into next week.
Some lawmakers have said they would only back May’s deal if she announced a date to step down. The EU has given Britain until April 12 to come up with an alternative Brexit plan if May is not able to get her deal with the EU through Parliament.
Anna Soubry, a former Conservative lawmaker who recently left May’s ruling party to join a breakaway cross-party group known as the Independent Group, was quick to criticize what she said were hardline pro-Brexit voices that forced May out.
“So hard Brexiteers will vote for the PMs ‘deal’ not because it’s good for our country and the right thing to do – not even because it delivers Brexit but because it gets rid of the PM #Shameful,” Soubry wrote on Twitter.
More: UK Parliament acts to avert ‘absolute catastrophe’ Brexit
More: ‘Bewildering, dire, disastrous’: Queen has a Brexit escape plan