Trump: I Feel Badly for Theresa May

Bennett Oghifo with agency report


The President of the United States, Donald Trump has described the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, who gave notice of her resignation friday, as a strong woman with the best interest of her country at heart.

Mrs. May will continue to serve as Prime Minister while a Conservative leadership contest takes place. The PM was under pressure to quit after a backlash from her own MPs against her Brexit plan.

The BBC reports that the US President Donald Trump responded to Theresa May’s resignation announcement, saying: “I feel badly for Theresa. I like her very much. She’s a good woman. She worked very hard. She’s very strong. She decided to do something that some people were surprised at, some people weren’t, for the good of her country. But I like her very much.”

It was a dramatic twist as Theresa May announced she will stand down as Tory leader on 7 June. Making an emotional statement in Downing Street, Mrs. May became tearful as she said serving as PM had been “the honour of my life”.

Attention has now turned to who will replace her, with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, yesterday, becoming the latest MP to indicate he would stand.

Some people that have declared interest in the job are: Boris Johnson, Esther McVey and Rory Stewart, with more than a dozen others also believed to be considering throwing their hats into the ring.

The Conservative party says it hopes a new leader can be in place by the end of July – which is also when Sir Vince Cable wants to step down as Lib Dem leader.

Sir Vince said he would be handing over the reins to his successor on 23 July. The Liberal Democrats have opened nominations for a new party leader after incumbent Sir Vince Cable confirmed he would be stepping down on 23 July. In an email to party members, he said the Lib Dems were “in an excellent position” to lead a “powerful, liberal, green, and social democratic force in the centre ground of British politics.”

May’s impending departure as Prime Minister leaves EU leaders wondering how finishing the Brexit process will be affected. But what does it mean for Brexit?

The short answer is that both No Deal and No Brexit are now both more likely. With Mrs. May’s “bold new Brexit plan” in tatters, there is no vehicle for leaving with the EU with a deal, and the default is that the UK’s membership will expire on Halloween.

The EU response to Theresa May’s resignation speech was immediate. From across Europe came expressions of respect – though notably, not regret. The Brexit process is a painful one for the EU – a constant reminder that the bloc is failing to keep a key member state, a constant shadow over other EU business and an economic drain – provoked by all the uncertainty – on European companies and outside investment.

The president of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, yesterday described her as “a woman of courage for whom he has great respect” but he also made clear, as did other European leaders, that finishing the Brexit process was the EU’s primary concern.

Mr. Juncker declared he would “equally respect and establish working relations with any new prime minister whoever they may be”.

Adding those last four words “whoever they may be”, alludes to the EU fear that Boris Johnson or another arch Brexiteer is most likely to become Mrs. May’s successor.

The EU has prepared for the prospect of “Prime Minister Boris” for months now. Theresa May’s demise doesn’t exactly come as a surprise.

As was the case when Donald Trump became US president, many Europeans have wondered whether “populist Boris, the arch Brexiteer” might be tamed by office into becoming calmer and (from the European perspective) more reasonable.

The worry here is that Mr. Johnson, or another Brexiteer, keen to prove their mettle, will want to play to the gallery at home: obstructing EU business where they can, as long as the UK remains a reluctant member.

The EU has already taken legal advice on how to get around that potential problem. They have concluded, for example, that if the new UK prime minister held up the next EU budget, which needs to be decided in the coming months, the 27 EU leaders minus the UK could informally sign the budget off. Their decision would then become legally binding once the UK officially left the EU.

As UK Prime Minister, Theresa May became associated with all that negativity. It was a source of continuous frustration in Brussels that she – in EU leaders’ opinion – repeatedly pandered to the extreme Brexiteers in her party, rather than face the inevitability of compromise and the necessity of cross-party co-operation (which Brussels believes finally came too late) to get an exit deal agreed.

European politicians and diplomats have always said to me: “What we (the EU) need, is a British prime minister strong enough to be able to do a deal in Brussels and to sell it back home in Westminster, whoever they may be.”

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