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May expected to announce date of her departure

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected on Friday to announce the date of her departure, triggering a contest that will bring a new leader to power who is likely to push for a more decisive Brexit divorce deal.

After a crisis-riven premiership of almost three years, May is due to meet the chairman of the powerful Conservative 1922 Committee, which can make or break prime ministers.

May will remain in office during a Conservative Party leadership election lasting about six weeks. The contest is likely to start on June 10 after US President Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain, The Times reported.

May’s departure will deepen the Brexit crisis as a new leader is likely to want a more decisive split, raising the chances of a confrontation with the European Union and an election that could usher in a socialist government.

In such a fluid situation, Britain faces an array of options including an orderly exit with a deal, a no-deal exit, an election or a second referendum that could ultimately reverse the 2016 decision to leave the EU.

May, who won the top job in the turmoil that followed the EU referendum, has repeatedly failed to get parliament’s approval for her divorce deal, which she pitched as a way to heal Britain’s Brexit divisions.

Her last gambit, offering a possible second referendum and closer trading arrangements with the EU, triggered a revolt by some Brexit-supporting ministers and triggered the resignation of the minister in charge of her parliamentary business.

On Thursday, with Britons voting in a European election in which pre-poll surveys suggested May’s Conservatives would be thrashed by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, May was digging in.

The chairman of the powerful Conservative 1922 Committee, which can make or break prime ministers, has said May would meet him on Friday to discuss her leadership.

George Osborne, a former Conservative finance minister and now editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper, said on Twitter he had been told that May would then announce she would step down on June 10, after the state visit by US President Donald Trump.

Other newspapers also suggested this was the probable timeline for her departure.

Amid dissent across her party at her latest Brexit proposal, the government delayed the planned publication of legislation to enact her divorce deal from Friday until June 3, in the hope that it could still be put to parliament on June 7.

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