UK Prime Minister Theresa May has quit amid Brexit drama. Who will replace her?

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Theresa May has announced she will step down as Conservative Party leader on June 7, paving the way for a leadership contest to determine who will steer Britain through its eventual exit from the European Union.

Key points:

  • The race is on for the UK prime ministership after Theresa May announced her resignation
  • The decision came after the Prime Minister’s Brexit bill was rejected three times 
  • Former Cabinet minister Boris Johnson, and current members Rory Stewart and Jeremy Hunt, are among those to have announced their intentions so far

But Mrs May could remain Prime Minister for up to six weeks while a new leader is chosen, with the process beginning on the week of June 10.

Leadership candidates will come forward and a secret vote will be held among Conservative MPs to whittle down the field.

If only one person puts themselves forward, they become leader with no need for a vote from members.

But already former Cabinet minister Boris Johnson and Esther McVey, as well as International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, have all announced their intentions to put their hats in the ring, meaning a contest will happen.

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Theresa May breaks down after announcing resignation as Prime MinisterABC NEWS

During the contest, the candidate with the fewest votes is removed and MPs will vote again, and so on, until only two candidates remain.

These two candidates are then put to a postal ballot of the wider Conservative Party membership.

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Participants need to have been party members for more than three months.

When David Cameron decided to step down as prime minister and Conservative leader after the EU referendum in 2016, five candidates came forward.

The field was narrowed to Mrs May and then-junior minister Andrea Leadsom, but she pulled out before members voted, leaving Mrs May to become leader unopposed.

So who could replace Mrs May if she falls?

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson speaks and wags his finger during a fringe event during the Conservative Party annual conference in Birmingham.

Mr Johnson is the leading candidate to take over as leader of the Conservatives.

The flamboyant former London mayor has made no secret of his leadership ambitions ā€” just last week he said he would put his hand up for the top job during a Q and A at a business conference.

“I’m going to go for it, of course I’m going to go for it,” he told a crowd at the British Insurance Brokers’ Association event.

He was also the front-runner to take the keys to Downing Street after the Brexit referendum ā€” but stumbled at the finish line.

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Boris Johnson the frontrunner to replace Theresa MayTHE WORLD

A staunch Brexiteer, Mr Johnson is very popular with the general public but has drawn the ire of other Tory MPs after his poor performance as foreign secretary and subsequent undermining of Mrs May after resigning from the post last July.

But many Conservatives now see Mr Johnson as the person to lead them through the Brexit mess and the strongest candidate to take on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the next election.

US President Donald Trump is also a big fan.

Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab, wearing a suit, smiles while walking


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Another staunch Brexiteer, Dominic Raab, has emerged as Mr Johnson’s biggest rival to the Conservatives leadership.

The 45-year-old is seen as a fresh face in the Tory party, coming into the cabinet in July last year to replace David Davis as Brexit secretary, only to later resign from the position over Mrs May’s Brexit strategy.

“I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto at the last election,” he said in his resignation letter.

His hardline attitude towards Brexit and reputation as a straight-shooter could win him favour against his Tory colleagues.

Andrea Leadsom

Leader of the UK's House of Commons Andrea Leadsom leaves Westminster.

She was the House of Commons leader until resigning from Cabinet on Thursday eveningover her opposition to Mrs May’s intention to put forward her Brexit bill for the fourth time.

Her resignation was seen as the final straw that pushed Mrs May into announcing her quitting date on Friday.

In 2016 the leadership contest came down to her and Mrs May, but despite her Brexiteer reputation she is still seen as an outsider to take over the leadership this time around.

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt

Originally a Remainer, Jeremy Hunt has slowly swung around to the Leave side since the 2016 vote, which should help his chances.

He took over as Foreign Secretary from Mr Johnson in 2018, and is seen as a steady if not outstanding Cabinet member.

Mr Hunt has announced his intention to run in the leadership contest.

Sajid Javid

British secretary of state Sajid Javid looks to the camera with a stern expression as he arrives at 10 Downing Street

A former banker who has enjoyed a steady rise within the Conservative ranks since first becoming an MP eight years ago.

He stepped into the powerful role of Home Secretary after the Windrush scandal claimed Amber Rudd and was one of the bookies’ favourites to replace Mrs May at Downing Street when she faced the November vote of no-confidence.

But the stripping of Islamic State bride Shamima Begum’s UK citizenship after the death of her infant child was seen as heartless by many and the momentum he had last year seems to have dried up.

Michael Gove

Michael Gove purses his lips as he looks straight ahead while walking on London street. He wears a suit.

The Environment Secretary’s odds of becoming leader have jumped up and down over the past few months, fluctuating from favourite to purely making up the numbers.

He had a disastrous run in the 2016 contest, where he originally backed Boris Johnson only to withdraw his support and run himself in the leadership election.

Mr Gove, who came third in the race, damaged his credentials in that move but has since managed to recoup support with his steadfast support of Mrs May.

He was one of the co-conveners of the Vote Leave campaign and his pro-Brexit stance should help his cause with the powerful Eurosceptic wing of the Conservatives.

Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt sports a slight smile as her hair blows in the wind while leaving 10 Downing Street

The international development secretary was promoted to Defence Secretary following Gavin Williamson’s sacking at the start of May, which has increased her stocks.

She is committed to Brexit and is popular with the public, and is another younger MP that is seen as a bit of fresh air in the otherwise stale Conservative Party, but her lack of experience could count against her.

Rory Stewart 

Rory Stewart smiles slightly as he looks to the right. He wears a dark overcoat and a suit with a green tie.

Penny Mordaunt’s promotion saw Mr Stewart come into Cabinet as International Development Secretary earlier this month.

His has plenty of ambition but his junior status amongst the contenders and the fact he was a Remainer will count against him.

Esther McVey

Esther McVey wears a blue suit and holds a red folder with a crown on it. She looks to camera as her blonde hair flows behind.

Former works and pensions secretary Esther McVey quit alongside Dominic Raab last year in protest at Mrs May’s Brexit strategy, and recently launched “Blue Collar Conservatism”, a campaign group that has been seen as a vehicle to further her own leadership ambitions.

She has confirmed that she will be running for the top job.