Theresa May confirms she will stand down as Tory leader on 7 June
Theresa May has fired the starting gun on the Tory leadership race by confirming she will leave Downing Street within weeks.
In an emotional statement outside Number 10, she said she will resign as Conservative leader on 7 June, but stay on as Prime Minister until her successor is elected.
She made the announcement following a meeting with Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers.
Mrs May said it had been "the honour of my life" to be Prime Minister, but admitted she had failed to get her Brexit deal over the line.
"I tried three times I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success seemed high," she said. "But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interest of the country for a new Prime Minister to lead that effort.
"So I am today announcing I will resign as leader of the Conservative an Unionist Party on Friday 7th June so that a successor can be chosen."
In a clear warning to her successor not to pursue a no-deal Brexit, Mrs May said "compromise is not a dirty word".
"It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit," she said. "It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum.
"To succeed he or she will have to find consensus in parliament where I have not such a consensus can only be reached if those on all sides of the debate are willing to compromise."
Her voice breaking, she added: "Our politics may be under strain, but there is so much that is good about this country. So much to be proud of. So much to be optimistic about.
"I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold – the second female Prime Minister but certainly not the last.
"I do so with no ill-will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love."
Mrs May's departure became inevitable following a Cabinet revolt over the Withdrawal Agreement Bill she had hoped to put to a Commons vote next month.
Ministers told her they could not support the legislation because of its clause giving MPs a vote on another EU referendum.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Prime Minister in a meeting on Thursday that she should scrap the WAB rather than force loyal Conservative MPs to support it when it no chance of passing.
Separately, Home Secretary Sajid Javid told Mrs May he could not support the bill unless the referendum section was ditched.
Mrs May was given a stay of execution on Wednesday when the 1922 Committee executive decided to give her the chance to go voluntarily rather than face the humiliation of a second vote of no confidence.
The Tory leadership race will officially begin on 10 June and is expected to last until the end of July.
Boris Johnson is the clear favourite to replace Mrs May, but there is a large number of Tory MPs committed to ensuring he does not succeed.
Rory Stewart and Esther McVey have already confirmed that they will throw their hats into the ring, with Mr Hunt, Mr Javid, Domini Raab and Andrea Leadsom among those also expected to take part in the contest.
The list of candidates will be whittled down to two by Tory MPs, before the party's 125,000 members vote on who should be the next Prime Minister.