Britain will see its third prime minister in three years as Brexit continues to shake the Brexit political system.
“I accept I have failed. I have failed chiefly because my party refuses to compromise. I regret therefore to announce I can no longer sit for this party,” these were not the words of Theresa May but the latest member of her own party to resign, Nick Boles.
Nick Boles follows three other members of the Conservative Party who have resigned as Prime Minister Theresa May struggles to pass her withdrawal agreement. It also marks a shift in the ideology of the fractious Conservative Party.
Mr Boles founded the think-tank Policy Exchange, which was widely perceived as helping the Conservative Party become more modern under the leadership of David Cameron. As the party continues to shift to the right, people like Boles are becoming increasingly isolated only adding to May’s woes.
The beleaguered British prime minister has even offered her resignation to her party if they back her withdrawal Brexit agreement; in the past prime ministers were expected to resign if they could not command authority.
May is effectively blackmailing her party to support her or she stays, an extraordinary situation for British politics. May knows, having survived a leadership contest in December of last year, that she can’t be challenged for one year and for some in her party that is too long.
Speaking in a private meeting with Conservative Party members she said, "I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party."
It has been clear for some time that many in her party, Leavers and Remainers, are unhappy with her Brexit agreement and want another prime minister to lead the next phase of negotiations.
A new poll also found that 41 percent of people would like to see May resign.
Who are the leadership contenders?
Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, is one of the leading contenders to take over from May.
Shortly after the Brexit vote in 2016 when David Cameron, the then British prime minister resigned, Johnson ran for the leadership before his campaign chief, Michael Gove, dramatically resigned running for the leadership contest himself.
A new poll found that Boris Johnson is one of leading favorites to lead the Conservative Party polling at 15 percent and continues to be one the most popular politicians with a positive approval rating of 31 percent.
His flamboyant style in politics has been one of the leading factors behind his popularity. However, he remains a divisive figure.
Boris Johnson, who campaigned for Brexit, has called May’s Brexit deal “deranged” and more recently has led a campaign to oust her.
According to Conservative sources May will attempt to scupper Boris Johnson’s plan to become premier by pushing the election process until the autumn in the hope of allowing an outside candidate to build momentum against the frontrunner.
According to reports, May and her allies are seeking to potentially skip a generation and for the party to pick a younger leader, this would deal a significant blow to Johnson.
Another frontrunner who could take over May’s job is Michael Gove, environment secretary, who unlike Boris Johnson failed in his 2016 bid after a dramatic falling out.
A Brexiter, Gove, unlike Johnson, has chosen to remain in the government believing that to achieve Brexit he should be within the government. However, his actions far from being altruistic are done with his future leadership ambitions in mind.
By remaining in the government Gove has attempted to paint himself as a moderate who is willing to work towards a deal, only recently suggesting so.
He has also warned hardline Brexiters, “Some may say that ditching this deal will allow us to leave without any compromises, but we didn’t vote in June 2016 to leave without a deal. That wasn’t the message of the campaign I helped lead.”
This rhetoric may very well help Gove within the parliamentary party to garner support and is in contrast to Boris Johnson, who has argued for a “no deal Brexit.”
Any leadership contest will inevitably be coloured by the current Brexit debate, which will also galvanise the wing of the party that wants to remain within the EU.
Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary and Remainer, is seen as close to May and has warned his party that they risk losing Brexit if they do not back May’s deal, adding that there was “wind in the sails” of the opponents of Brexit.
However, any leadership ambitions that Hunt may have will be impacted by perceived proximity to the May leadership and her handling of Brexit. Many Remainers and Brexiters have been critical of May’s handling of negotiations with the EU and will be weary of potentially repeating such a scenario.
Britain will have a new prime minister by the end of this year, its third in three years. However any new prime minister will continue to grapple with the challenges of Brexit and defining the next chapter of Britain's future relationship with the EU and will need to contend with the challenges that will result for their authority.