LONDON - Theresa May announced Friday that she will step down as U.K. Conservative Party leader on June 7, sparking a contest to become Britain's next prime minister.
She will stay as caretaker prime minister until the new leader is chosen, a process likely to take several weeks. The new Conservative leader would then become prime minister without the need for a general election.
Her voice breaking, May said in a televised statement that she would be leaving a job that it has been “the honour of my life to hold.”
May has bowed to relentless pressure from her party to quit over her failure to take Britain out of the European Union on schedule.
Her departure will trigger a party leadership contest in which any Conservative lawmaker can run. The early front-runner is Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary and strong champion of Brexit.
Britain is currently due to leave the EU on Oct. 31, but Parliament has yet to approve divorce terms.
Pressure on May to quit over her failure to get Parliament's approval for a European Union divorce deal reached critical point this week as House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom quit and several Cabinet colleagues expressed doubts about her Brexit bill.
With her authority draining away by the hour, May on Thursday delayed plans to publish the EU withdrawal bill - her fourth attempt to secure Parliament's backing for her Brexit blueprint.
May became prime minister in July 2016, and her premiership has been consumed by the so-far-unsuccessful attempt to leave the EU.