- Theresa May to agree a timetable for her resignation as prime minister within weeks.
- Senior Conservative backbenchers say the prime minister has agreed to allow a contest to replace her once she has held a vote on a crucial piece of Brexit legislation.
- May is currently expected to lose the vote when it takes place at the start of June.
- The Prime Minister has agreed to allow a contest, whatever the result of the vote.
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Theresa May has agreed to set a timetable for her resignation as prime minister within weeks, with a new leadership election likely to take place this summer.
The prime minister met with senior Conservative backbenchers on Thursday to discuss her departure plans.
Following their meeting, the Chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, told Sky News that she had agreed to meet again to arrange her departure as soon as the vote on her Brexit Withdrawal Bill takes place in June.
May is due to bring the legislation for Britain’s exit from the EU before the House of Commons in the first week of June. She has already committed to resigning if the bill passes.
However, with little prospect of a majority of members of parliament backing the bill, Brady said that the prime minister had also agreed to set out plans for a contest to find her successor, if the bill is defeated.
"We have agreed to meet to decide the timetable for the election of a new leader of the Conservative party as soon as the second reading [of the Brexit withdrawal bill] has occurred," Brady told Sky News.
"And that will take place regardless of what the vote is on the second reading – whether it passes or whether it fails to pass."
Members of parliament have already rejected May’s Brexit deal with the EU three times and there is very little sign of May succeeding on her fourth attempt.
Downing Street hinted on Wednesday that defeat for the bill could lead to her resignation.
Asked whether the vote would be treated as a confidence vote in the prime minister, a spokesman for the PM said at a briefing attended by Business Insider that "clearly the significance of this piece of legislation can’t, and I suspect won’t, be underestimated."
There is so far little sign that a majority of MPs will back the bill. Nearly six weeks of cross-party talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, which were designed to find a compromise Brexit plan that opposition MPs could support, have produced few results.
Senior Labour figures are wary of Downing Street’s motives for holding talks, while the government has given no indication it is prepared to concede to Labour’s demands for a full customs union.
Conservative opposition to her Brexit plan also appears to have strengthened in recent weeks.
In a further blow to the prime minister’s authority, her formerly loyal advisor Nick Timothy on Thursday called for her to step down. In an article for the Telegraph newspaper, he wrote: "Her premiership has failed, and her authority is shot," adding that her MPs feel "betrayed and misled."
Johnson to run for PM
May’s agreement with Tory MPs came as the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson confirmed for the first time that he will stand to be Conservative party leader and prime minister once Theresa May resigns.
"I’m going to go for it," Johnson told the BBC journalist Huw Edwards at an event in Manchester.
Johnson resigned as May’s Foreign Secretary in 2018 over her Brexit plans and is the current favourite to succeed her in the job.
He joins a growing list of potential contenders to replace Theresa May, which includes his fellow Brexiteer Dominic Raab, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid and the former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey.
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