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Theresa May will resign as U.K. prime minister

Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she will resign as prime minister Friday, meaning a country that was already adrift amid the current Brexit crisis now has to replace its leader as well.

The big picture: May had presented a last-ditch effort to get her Brexit deal across the line, offering up the possibility of a second referendum. That olive branch set off a schism within her own Cabinet, punctuated by the resignation of Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, as ministers signaled throughout the week that the prime minister's political situation was deteriorating.

The state of play: May's resignation announcement comes just after the U.K. voted in the European elections, where her Conservative Party is expected to take a drubbing in the polls among pro-Brexit voters at the hands of Nigel Farage's Brexit Party.

What's next: The contest for who will take over the Conservatives kicks off — Boris Johnson has already declared his interest — and the winner will be tasked with taking the next steps on Brexit. May will step down as the Conservative Party leader on June 7 and remain as a caretaker prime minister throughout the party's leadership election process, which will begin the following week.

  • That could mean going back to the European Union to start from scratch and negotiate a new deal — but it could also mean drastic steps like a no-deal Brexit.
  • Should the no-deal option be pursued by a Brexiteer successor to May, it would likely face severe backlash in Parliament and lead to an early general election.

Go deeper: Everything you need to know about Brexit