Theresa May’s legacy will be her Brexit failure

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Theresa May, known for her doggedness and steely determination, cast a very lonely shadow outside of 10 Downing Street as she announced she would be leaving the job that had been “the honour of her life to hold”. 

For months she’d increasingly isolated herself, first from her party, and then from the Cabinet that made it clear in the days leading up to her resignation it could no longer stomach her leadership.

Let’s be clear, Mrs May would never have gone at her own choosing.

She could either announce her own leaving date or be thrown out. 

She was adamant her Brexit deal was the only way forward, so much so she was determined to bring it back to a hostile Parliament for a fourth time. 

That was the moment that any support she had left was lost; Commons leader Andrea Leadsom quit, becoming the 36th minister to do so in the less than three years of Mrs May’s prime ministership. 

Following Thatcher, May’s legacy will be understated

Theresa May laughs surrounded by members of parliament in the House of Commons.

As she pointed out in her gracious resignation speech, she was the nation’s second female Prime Minister after Margaret Thatcher. 

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That’s deeply significant of course, but unlike the Iron Lady, Mrs May’s legacy will be far more understated. 

She served in the leadership role for one of the shortest periods in British history, and failed to deliver that on which her leadership was pegged — from the beginning to the end: Brexit. 

She took a gamble going to an election in 2017 — and lost the party’s majority.

Instead of working with the crossbenches she dug her heels in, repeatedly claiming it would be “her deal or no deal”.

“It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit,” she said outside 10 Downing Street on Friday.

She did achieve unity on one thing: her Brexit deal was deeply unpopular among the opposition, her own party and the British people.

May became just another casualty in the Brexit process

Palace of Westminster with pro-EU activists waving EU flags

No one argues that executing Brexit would be easy, or even achievable, but in the end for Mrs May it was her leadership decisions that led to her Cabinet losing faith and ultimately to her own demise.

Months ago she needed to change tact, to offer something different or more. She didn’t and she wouldn’t. 

Why now?

In trying to appease all sides, Theresa May alienated supporters and pushed others to extremes. After almost three years doggedly pushing for a Brexit deal, why now has the death knell sounded on her political career?

Negotiations with the Labour Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn seemed all for show. They achieved nothing. 

Conservative Party members graciously thanked her for her honourable service, but really you could almost hear the sighs of relief that she had finally fallen.

The jostling began immediately.

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and others were quickly out of the blocks.

There could be up to 20 MPs who put their hand up for the top job.

But the change in guard does not resolve the Brexit brinkmanship, and whoever wins in July will be passed the same poisoned chalice Mrs May inherited herself.

Theresa May had hoped she would be remembered as the Prime Minister that delivered Brexit.

Instead, she is just another causality in the fraught Brexit process, and there could be more to come. 

A blow-up effigy of British Prime Minister Theresa May is paraded during a protest in London.
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