British PM Theresa May Resigns, What Next?  
| Pooran Chandra Pandey, Founding CEO, DOC RI, Germany - 07 Jun 2019

British PM Theresa May Resigns, What Next?  

By Pooran Chandra Pandey

New Delhi, June 07, 2019:

In politics, it is said that everything is truthful unless questioned. The same yardstick seems to be applicable in the case of Theresa May, the British prime minister who resigns as Conservative party’s leader on June 7, making way for a new British prime minister later this summer in quick turn of events that cost her party its leader and a lady British prime minister among many questioning her ability to deliver Brexit in a time-bound manner.

In an emotional speech before 10, Downing Street in a nationwide televised event, British prime minister May said, “ she was departing with ‘ no ill will’ but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love’, joining a series of Conservative prime ministers who failed over the question of Britain’s relationship with Europe.

David Cameron, John Major and Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s only other female prime minister, were all ousted in part because they could not get their party, let alone the country, to agree on how closely tied Britain and the continent should be.

Referendum to leave European Union

A referendum - a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part - was held on Thursday 23 June, 2016, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union. Leave won by 51.9% to 48.1%. The referendum turnout was 71.8%, with more than 30 million people voting.

England voted for Brexit, by 53.4% to 46.6%. Wales also voted for Brexit, with Leave getting 52.5% of the vote and Remain 47.5%. Scotland and Northern Ireland both backed staying in the EU. Scotland backed Remain by 62% to 38%, while 55.8% in Northern Ireland voted Remain and 44.2% Leave.

Change of track

Theresa May was initially against Brexit during the referendum campaign but later became in favour of  it because she said it is what the British people want. She triggered the two year process of leaving the EU on 29 March, 2017, setting out her negotiating goals in a letter to the EU council president Donald Tusk, outlining her plans for a transition period after Brexit in a speech in Florence, Italy. British prime minister May later and subsequently set out her thinking on the kind of trading relationship the UK wants with the EU, in a speech in March 2018.

Secret negotiations with poor outcomes

May spent two years negotiating, in secret, a Brexit withdrawal deal with the E.U., only to see it rejected three times by the House of Commons, with many of her own Conservatives refusing to support her. Earlier this week, she was still determined to push the withdrawal agenda with the EU while offering a tweaked version of her Brexit plan. It was rejected so swiftly and resoundingly by so many lawmakers, including members of her own cabinet, signaling her departure as leader of the Conservative party and British prime minister.

Who is Theresa May ?

The only child of an Anglican minister, Theresa Brasier, grew up in rural Oxfordshire attending both state-run and private schools before matriculating at the University of  Oxford, where she studied geography. She worked for the Bank of England before moving on to the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS), serving as head of the European Affairs Unit and senior adviser on international affairs.

May began her political career in 1986 as councillor in the London borough of Merton, a position she held until 1994.

When Cameron became prime minister in 2010, May was named secretary of state for the home department as the longest-serving home secretary in over a century. In 2016 she stood with Cameron in opposing “Brexit”. When Cameron announced his resignation after voters chose to depart the EU in the national referendum in June 2016, May quickly became the new Conservative leader, becoming British prime minister on July 13, 2016. 

What next ?

With May stepping down as the leader of the Conservative party and the second lady British prime minister, decks will be cleared for the new British prime minister and a scrum will begin to choose and elect a new British prime minister . There are quite a few names doing the around within the party, however, it is highly likely that Boris Johnson would get elected as the next leader of the Conservative party and in that capacity as the next British prime minister. Among other useful traits that Boris possesses, he is the one person who has good grasp over the party, a Brexiteer, close proximity to media and ability to read the political mood of the nation. His connect with the British people, by and large, has been smooth.

My knowing Boris, likely next British prime minister

I have had the privilege of personally knowing Boris when I first happened to meet him in London in the year 2011 when I was a British Chevening Scholar at the London School of Economics and Political Science in London. Boris back then used to be the Mayor of the city of London and also was in charge of London Olympics. In my personal encounter with him, I saw in him an ambitious person bordering on being an astute politician with ambition and ability to do things differently. His administrative skills were sharp and ability to read mood was worth emulating. His stint as the Mayor of London and organizational skills in conduct of the London Olympics are well remembered by anyone who had interest in on goings in the city of London and successful organization of the London Olympics.

His ability to influence people through his communication skills, reasonable knowledge of prevalent issues and prowess to deep dive into history due to his journalistic background stood him in a good stead and made him distinct. Much time though has passed since then and maturity in man would have surely improved. I personally feel that he would prove to be a memorable British prime minister in contemporary time and space including the given task of conducting successful negotiations with the European Union to secure a ‘sensible and mutually beneficial deal’ for British people, should the Conservative party elect him as the next British prime minister.  

Who is Boris Johnson ?

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, American-born British journalist and Conservative Party politician who in 2008 became the second elected mayor of London and later served as secretary of state for foreign affairs (2016–18) under Prime Minister Theresa May.

As a child, Johnson lived in New York City, London, and Brussels before attending boarding school in England. He won a scholarship to Eton College and later studied classics at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was president of the Oxford Union. After briefly working as a management consultant, Johnson also embarked on a career in journalism.

Johnson was re-elected to his parliamentary seat in 2005.

What lies ahead for UK and EU ?

Once the new prime minister’s election by the Conservative party takes place during this summer, the new British prime minister will have her/his task cut out to negotiate with the European Union over the next steps in decision making exercise about the kind of  exit plan UK negotiates with the EU.  

There are likely to be hard positions taken by both the sides to secure a deal which at least looks convincing for respective political constituencies. Britain would like to secure a deal which keeps it within the Union while establishing new rules of engagement with the EU while EU at the same time would like to present UK some hard options to pick and be content with. There are also speculations that there could be a consensus for another referendum in the UK which may mean reversal of position by the British people to withdraw from the ‘planned EU exit’ through a compromise formula.

Whichever way, it goes, next few months in lead up to election of the new British prime minister and later resumption of dialogue between UK and EU over their future relationship, will be shrouded in mystery with deep impending geo-political implications on involved parties.

Outcome of negotiated settlement may well define and augur a new model of multi-lateralism and may redraw new boundaries for a new world order.

(Author Pooran Chandra Pandey is Founding CEO of the DOC Research Institute, Berlin, Germany; Has worked for TOI and Ispat Industries in senior leadership positions among other large industry associations and non-profits; Launched and led national campaigns such as Teach India and Lead India during his stint at the TOI earning appreciation from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Also on boards of World Food Program Trust India, ACC Limited, Ambuja Cement and Dainik Bhaskar Etc; Has Authored 12 books.)


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