NI Reaction As PM Set To Resign

Theresa May has today announced that she will step down from her position as Prime Minister in just two weeks time, prompting a mixed reaction from Northern Ireland's politicians.

Mrs May will resign as the Conservative party leader on Friday 07 June, paving the way for a leadership contest. It comes as opposition to her Brexit Withdrawal Agreement reached new levels this week, with a new strategy that appeared as unpopular with MPs as the three already rejected by Parliament.

In a statement outside 10 Downing Street this morning, 24 May, the PM said: "Ever since I first stepped through the door behind me as Prime Minister, I was driven to make the United Kingdom a country that works not just for a privileged few but for everyone, and to honour the result of the EU referendum.

"I negotiated the terms of our exit and a new relationship with our closest neighbours that protects jobs, our security and our union. I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal…

"But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort. So I am today announcing that I will resign as the leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 07 June so that a successor can be chosen…

"Our politics may be under strain but there is so much that is good about this country, so much to be proud of, so much to be optimistic about. I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold.

"The second female prime minister, but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love."

DUP leader Arlene Foster, whose party has worked with the Prime Minister since June 2017 through the Confidence and Supply Agreement, paid tribute to Mrs May: "Whilst at times there were differences in our approach, particularly on Brexit, we enjoyed a respectful and courteous relationship," the Stormont party leader said.

"In particular, I commend and thank the Prime Minister for her dutiful approach on national issues and her willingness to recognise Northern Ireland's need for additional resources through Confidence and Supply arrangements.
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"I pay tribute to her selfless service in the interests of the United Kingdom and wish her well for the future."

Meanwhile, some in Northern Ireland have said the issue of Brexit is not diminished by the resignation, and the same issues will remain.

Alliance party deputy leader Dr Stephen Farry said Mrs May conducted herself in a dignified and courteous manner, but "had her hands tied through mutually contradictory redlines over Brexit".

Dr Farry said the next Prime Minister will face the same issues and must show "realism and honesty" in the role: "No matter who now replaces her, the same problems will still persist- they will face stark choices regarding Brexit and its consequences, and they need to approach them with honesty and realism.

"Given the time needed to conduct the process to select a new Conservative leader and Prime Minister, it is likely another extension to Article 50 will be required, if we are to not leave the EU with no deal. The next Prime Minister must push for a People's Vote and allow people to Remain now they know the mess Brexit will bring."

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood commented that the news should display to Britain and Europe that Brexit is a fundamentally undeliverable prospect.

The Foyle MLA said: "Attempts to implement Brexit have now cost the British Government 38 Ministers since the 2016 referendum, including two Prime Ministers. It is a doctrine that seeks to sink an axe of simplicity into the delicate layers of political relationships across Ireland. And it has broken old political certainties in Britain. It is fundamentally an undeliverable prospect.

"I have disagreed with Theresa May almost every single step of the way over the course of the last three years. Triggering Article 50 with no plan to prevent a hard border in Ireland, reneging politically on the agreed terms of the backstop and stubbornly refusing to call a halt to the madness that has consumed Westminster. It is undeniable, however, that she has exhausted every avenue to find agreement in the House of Commons. The simple fact remains, however, that there is clearly no consensus to be found.

"The European Union has already said very clearly that the Withdrawal Agreement is not up for renegotiation. A new Prime Minister should recognise the mistakes made by Theresa May, revoke Article 50 and put an end to this political, diplomatic and economic car crash."


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