Outgoing British PM Theresa May formally resigns, officially triggers leadership race

The outgoing British prime minister formally resigned Friday as the leader of the ruling Conservative Party, triggering the race for who will lead the United Kingdom next.

Theresa May announced her resignation two weeks agowhen she said she would stand down as party leader on June 7.

She exchanged letters with Charles Walker and Dame Cheryl Gillian, the vice chairmen of the powerful 1922 committee on Friday, formally stepping down as leader, according to The Telegraph.

However, under electoral commission rules, May will continue in her post in an acting capacity until July 23 when the party picks a successor, who will become Britain’s next prime minister.

The letters between May and the committee will not be released to the public. A source who had seen the exchange of letters told The Telegraph that there was a “short and warm exchange” of words between May, Walker, and Gillian.

No public event is planned to mark the occasion as May’s time at the helm ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

Almost a dozen Conservative lawmakers are already jostling to replace her in a contest that formally opens Monday, vowing to succeed where May failed and renegotiateBritain’s divorce deal with the European Union.

However, the E.U. has said that renegotiation is not on the books. Ever since Britain voted by a 52 percent to 48 percent in 2016 to leave the EU, the other 27 nations in the block have presented a united front in negotiations, finally agreeing late last year to a detailed divorce plan with May’s government.

Conservative lawmakers will hold a ballot June 13, with any candidate who doesn’t get at least 5 percent of votes dropping out. Further rounds will be held on June 18, 19 and 20, if needed, with the least popular candidate dropping each time.

The final two candidates will be put to a postal vote of about 160,000 Conservative members with the winner announced the week of July 22.

The race, which already has 11 candidates, is utterly dominated by Brexit.

The front-runner, Boris Johnson, has warned that the Conservatives face “extinction” if Britain doesn’t leave the EU on Oct. 31.

Johnson successfully challenged a demand to appear in court after a private prosecution was brought against him for allegations he misled the public during the Brexit campaign. He was accused of misconduct in a public office over claims he made during the Brexit referendum campaign about the U.K. sending $446 million to the European Union.

The chances that Britain’s 27 E.U. partners would consider reopening the legally binding divorce agreement appear slim at best.

Even as the Brexit saga has dragged on and the pressure of a potentially disastrous “no deal” Brexit mounted, no European leader has publicly shown an appetite for renegotiating any part of the 585-page text.

The EU has also completed its no-deal preparations, and while many in Brussels hope Britain’s Parliament would prevent the country crashing out of the bloc, most are reluctantly resigned to the possibility that it could happen.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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