British Prime Minister Theresa May told Conservative MPs on Wednesday that she would not “stand in the way” of being replaced as the leader to handle the next stage of Brexit negotiations.
“I know there is a desire for a new approach -- and new leadership -- in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations -- and I won’t stand in the way of that,” she told a meeting of the Conservative Party’s backbench 1922 Committee.
“I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party,” she added, according to a press release from her Downing Street office.
Conservative MP James Cartlidge, who was at the closed-door meeting, told reporters as he walked out that May had said she would step down before the “next phase” of Brexit negotiations.
Fellow MP Pauline Latham told reporters that May had said she would resign “after the meaningful vote was through”, meaning the vote on her EU divorce deal.
“We have to pass it or all bets are off,” Latham said.
The embattled leader is desperately trying to drum up support for the unpopular divorce deal she struck with the European Union, which MPs have already twice resoundingly rejected.
Several MPs who voted against the deal have suggested they could now back it if May gave a timetable for her resignation, allowing a new leader to head the negotiations over Britain’s future relationship with the EU.
“I know some people are worried that if you vote for the Withdrawal Agreement, I will take that as a mandate to rush on into phase two without the debate we need to have. I won’t -- I hear what you are saying,” May said.
“But we need to get the deal through and deliver Brexit.”
With a weakened prime minister and a log-jammed parliament, Britain has been mired in Brexit chaos for months and has had to ask the EU for an extension to the departure day.
MPs will hold a flurry of votes on Wednesday seeking to try and find majority support for a new Brexit plan.
Three years of political turmoil that followed Britain’s decision to break its near half-century bond with the EU were meant to have ended on Friday with the formal completion of the divorce.
But no clear end is in sight and May has found herself under unrelenting pressure from both inside and outside her own party to resign.