Return to Transcripts main page


CNN International: British Prime Minister Theresa May Resigns; Interview with James Heappey, Conservative MP, on Aftermath of May's Resignation; Interview with Peter Bone, Conservative MP, on the Trials of Brexit. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired May 24, 2019 - 06:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Continuing our breaking news here on CNN, I'm Bianca Nobilo and this is CNN NEWSROOM. You're watching CNN's special coverage, seeing as prime minister Theresa May's premiership is now in its final phase after announcing she will resign as Conservative leader on June 7th.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so. I tried three times. I believe it was right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high.

But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort. So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen.


NOBILO: Ms. May's resignation will trigger a Conservative Party leadership election and the winner of that will become the next prime minister. At the end of her speech, an emotional May then revealed how much being prime minister really meant to her.


MAY: I will shortly leave the job that has been the honor 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.


NOBILO: Let's bring in political analyst Carole Walker. She joins us from Abingdon Green.

Carole, the prime minister said in her speech that she made the statement today with no ill will.

Do we think that's true?

After all, those around her in cabinet, in government and in the party were the architects of what we've seen.

CAROLE WALKER, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it would be surprising if, as prime minister, she was not frustrated that many in her own party refused time and again to vote for her deal.

She said she left with ill will (sic). I'm sure she said that with a lot of sincerity. But I think she will feel a sense of huge frustration that she was not able to deliver her Brexit deal.

And that in part is due to members of her own party and indeed members who walked out of her own government because they didn't like what she was delivering. I'm looking now at a statement from Jeremy Corbyn, opposition leader, Labour Party.

He is saying, "Theresa May is right to resign. She's now accepted what the country's known for months, she can't govern and nor can her divided and disintegrating party.

Whoever becomes the new Tory leader must let the people decide our country's future through an immediate general election."

And I think there will now be at least a realistic prospect of that happening. We are going to see in the coming weeks a new leader of the Conservative Party. But whoever that is, is going to face the problems that Theresa May has faced and that is to find some kind of arrangement which can get through the Houses of Parliament and be acceptable to the European Union. Of course, there is so much uncertainty ahead now because, as we know, many parts of the E.U. are still voting in those E.U. elections. We don't know the makeup of the new E.U. Parliament and crucially commission.

But there are huge and insurmountable problems ahead. I'm sure when the prime minister said she was leaving with no ill will, I think that did not mask the fact that she really did not want to go.

After she lost her majority in the general election back in 2017, the former chancellor, George Osborne, described her as dead woman walking. Since then, she has survived attempt after attempt to oust her.

She survived a no confidence motion from her own side back in December and, even earlier this week, she was simply refusing to see some of her key ministers, who I think were trying to say to her, look, the writing is on the wall, it is time to stand down.

The prime minister did not want to leave. She wanted to try to deliver Brexit before she stood aside. I think she knows in her heart of hearts that will go down as a significant failure of her leadership.

NOBILO: And the prime minister is now fourth, I think, in a pattern of --


NOBILO: -- Conservative prime ministers whose premierships have ended over issues related to Europe, like Margaret Thatcher, John Major, David Cameron and now Theresa May.

How much of a hand do you think she had in her own demise?

WALKER: I think what is certainly true, we're seeing today lots of very warm words from people talking about her commitment, her dedication to public service, her unstinting energy and efforts to try to make a deal.

But I think she made serious mistakes right at the outset and the decision to call a general election and then the rather misjudged campaign that lost her majority was really the start of a whole series of mistakes.

Once she lost that majority, that was the moment I think she should have tried to find some consensus, as she recognized at that stage it was simply too unstable to rely on the votes of a handful of Democratic Unionist MPs from Northern Ireland with their own specific concerns.

If she tried to get broader parliamentary and public opinion behind her and behind her deal, at that stage, it would have helped.

I think there was also this problem that the European Union was never convinced that, when she said, no deal was better than a bad deal, that she was prepared to walk away and that weakened her hand in the dealings with the E.U.

Now of course, Parliament doesn't want a no deal Brexit. It voted that she should not pursue a no deal Brexit but that wasn't a binding vote. She could still have decided that she was not going to cave into those demands.

But once the E.U. realized that there was no way she was going to walk away, I think there was no sense that they were ever going to give her the compromises that would enable her to get her own side on board.

By time she then reached out to the Labour Party to try to get the votes of at least some Labour MPs by offering a second referendum, by offering some form of customs union in the legislation, which I fear will now never see the light of day in Parliament -- it was due to be introduced at the beginning of June -- she simply left it too late to then try to reach out. By that time, opinion on all sides was entrenched.

So I think it is very easy to look back and see the mistakes that she made. But you're right; she was dealing with that deeply divided Conservative Party, which Lord Baker was a key member of Margaret Thatcher's government, was talking to us about. And it was never going to be easy for her to get the kind of deal that she wanted through. She was always going to annoy one side or the other of her party. I

think the tragedy for Theresa May is she tried to keep both sides on board and ended up keeping neither side on board because those who voted against her deal came from those who wanted close ties to Europe as well as those who wanted a really clean break.

NOBILO: And, Carole, it also seems as though the prime minister not only has been able to bring her party together but she's lost huge amounts of support among the British public, we're announcing the Conservative Party polling is pretty low compared to its historic average.

So do you think this is going to not just set the prime minister and her legacy back, the fact that she's failed to delivered on this, but is it possible for the Conservative Party to come back together on this?

Because Europe has always been an issue that has divided the Conservative Party. Both divisions have been latent but they've managed to get on with business. But Brexit busted all of that out into the open and now it's clear that there are two very distinct sides to this debate.

Can they coexist and repair?

WALKER: No doubt there has been huge damage to the Conservative Party both in terms of the internal divisions and in terms of the loss of support around the country and, indeed, amongst activists and supporters of the Conservative Party.

It's just a couple of weeks since local elections were held. And hundreds of Conservative counselors, many of them who had served the Conservative Party for many, many years, lost their seats. I was out in one part of the east of England, a council that had been run by the Conservatives for more than 20 years. More than 30 Conservative counselors lost their seats in that.


WALKER: The former leader of that group was saying that none of his activists were even prepared to go out and fight the European elections. Voters here in the U.K. voted only yesterday in those E.U. elections. We'll get those results on Sunday night.

The Conservatives are braced for some pretty disastrous results. They are up against Nigel Farage's Brexit Party. It is standing on one issue and one issue only and that is to deliver Brexit, to deliver Brexit without a deal if necessary.

And I think what you'll see is that many Conservative supporters, many Conservative voters have gone for the Brexit Party, in part, to send a message about their huge frustration at the government's failure to deliver on Brexit.

And I think there is no doubt that whoever replaces Theresa May is going to face an immense challenge in trying to pick the party back up off the floor, try to heal those divisions and try to find a way through this Brexit process, which has been effectively in paralysis for weeks and months now.

That will be the overriding objective. I think if a new leader can find a way through Brexit without too much economic damage, that will be the key to his or her success.

NOBILO: Thanks, Carole. Carole Walker there for us in Abingdon Green. We'll come back to you a little later on.

A tweet from Boris Johnson, he said, "A very dignified statement from Theresa May. Thank you for your stoical service to our country and the Conservative Party. It is now time to follow her urgings, to come together and deliver Brexit."

Phil Black is outside 10 Downing Street for us.

Phil, I just read Boris Johnson's tweet. He is touted as being one of the front-runners to replace her in the leadership contest that we now know is kicking off on the 10th of June.

Who's the bookies' and analysts' favorite to be living in that house behind new a month or so's time?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's very much that man, Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, the man that resigned from Theresa May's cabinet because of her handling of Brexit. Someone who has become the prime minister's biggest, most vocal critic, sniping from the sidelines as she endured struggle after struggle.

He has a regular newspaper column in "The Telegraph" newspaper here. Through it, he was able to very broadly attack the prime minister, her policies, her decisions on a pretty regular basis. It is in no -- it is fair to say, among the many contributing factors that she must leave office, among the many reasons responsible for that over the three years of her premiership, Boris Johnson plays no small part.

He very much expected to replace her. He is the leading candidate among the crowded field to populate this Conservative Party contest. He described her as dignified. That's certainly a fair statement, I think, not just with Theresa May's performance here today, announcing her intention to leave office, but really throughout her premiership.

She has certainly been dignified and she has persevered and she has pushed on, regardless of how difficult the circumstances may be. Yet, regardless of what respect there was for her perseverance, for her extraordinary resilience, it was not enough to satisfy her party and key figures within it, figures that very much spoke for the right wing pro Brexit branch, of which Boris Johnson is a leading figure.

They have been at her heels for such a long time now. Many have wanted to see Theresa May's resignation long before now. Remember, she faced a vote of confidence in the party room back in December. She survived that but perhaps only because there was no better option at the time. And the party feared the consequences, the likelihood of facing a

general election soon after. Now, though, the party has lost all patience. Theresa May is aware of that. She has made this choice.

So we are hearing people like Boris Johnson say relatively nice things about Theresa May today. But make no mistake, Johnson played a role in bringing her and the country to where they are today.

NOBILO: Where does all of this leave Britain?

Theresa May mentioned that the country is under great strain in its politics. We have the president of the United States arriving the week or just days out from when Theresa May is going to officially resign and a new leader will begin to be chosen in this leadership contest.


NOBILO: Brexit is still completely up in the air. That will depend a large amount on who replaces Theresa May.

How unstable is British politics now compared to where it was a few days ago?

Or has this all been priced in because we've been expecting a resignation for such a long time?

BLACK: I think you could argue this is simply Theresa May accepting a reality that was very much in existence already and that is that she is prime minister in name but with very little authority. So she will continue in that role through the coming weeks.

And her timing in terms of stepping down as Conservative Party leader, the country needs a prime minister, particularly while it is hosting the U.S. president on a state visit in early June.

From there, she will continue in something of a caretaker role. Prime minister in name officially but she will not have authority. But she has not had authority for some time. As the Conservative Party chooses its new leader and then moving into that new phase, once we know who her successor will be, well, there will be a great deal of interest in how the successor is going to move forward, what different philosophy, what different take on the defining issues of the day he or she may try to execute.

But as we've been talking about, the challenges remain very much the same. Theresa May's successor will inherit Brexit and all its mess, will inherit a divided Parliament, will inherit a minority government and will inherit all the uncertainty and the increasing conflicts within British politics that Brexit has inspired.

NOBILO: Phil Black, thank you.

Now that Theresa May has announced that she will step down as prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party, here are the next steps. Conservative MPs who wish to lead the party must be nominated by two

fellow members of the party. If more than two candidates are nominated, the 313 Conservative MPs will hold a series of votes until they select their two top choices.

Then the entire party, about 124,000 members, votes in a postal ballot to make the final decision on who will take the helm.

James Heappey is a Conservative MP who joins me now from Somerset.

James, good to see you. You voted Remain and you now feel differently, I believe. But, first of all, let's get your reaction to the prime minister's speech this morning.

JAMES HEAPPEY, CONSERVATIVE MP: Yes, thank you. I thought the prime minister's speech was very moving. I caught the end of it as I got into my car. And so the bit I heard was going through the things that she had (INAUDIBLE) in Number 10.

And the emotion that she showed in showing just how honored she had been to be our prime minister and how sad she was she could not keep that going. (INAUDIBLE) thank her for her service. She has been (INAUDIBLE) fierceness with headwinds delivering something that had been politically nigh on impossible and she'd done so with great determination and a real duty.

NOBILO: James, the headwinds have, without a doubt, been incredibly strong.

But do you feel like irreparable damage has been done to the Conservative Party?

It feels like all-out war at the moment. There have been so many resignations. The prime minister's been under monumental pressure to resign from members of her own government, members of the party. There are so many different candidates for leadership. It's not clear at the moment where the heart and soul of the party is and where the party even wants to take the issue of Brexit.

HEAPPEY: Well, I hope it's not irreparable but there has been damage done and arguably the worst is yet to come. Because a leadership election, no matter the (INAUDIBLE) candidates, I have every confidence that they will all seek to handle the next few weeks in a responsible, constructive way.

But the subject matter is hugely divided. There is clear disagreement in the Conservative Party over how exactly the Brexit process should go forward with pressure being exerted (INAUDIBLE) and we're very likely, I think, to see a very disappointing set of results in the European elections (INAUDIBLE) this weekend.

So with all of that going on, we are going to be under a lot of public scrutiny and challenging each other very robustly. My hope and certainly what I am looking for in terms of who I back as the next leader, is I want someone who can command the confidence (INAUDIBLE) that we can deliver Brexit but crucially will then be able to set out an ambitious (ph) one nation (INAUDIBLE) Conservative agenda behind --


HEAPPEY: -- which everybody can unite and more importantly, that can start to bring back the countries as a whole. Because the tensions within the Conservative Party are this microcosm of the (INAUDIBLE) across British society. And the sooner we can get on dealing with those, the better.

NOBILO: One nation Conservative who has the confidence of Brexit voters, sounds a lot like Boris Johnson. Is he who you will be backing?

HEAPPEY: Boris is certainly one of the people that I am giving (INAUDIBLE) attention to, although today it's the (INAUDIBLE). It's been no secret that people who have been hoping to stand have for some time now been meeting with colleagues at Westminster and setting out their cases.

(INAUDIBLE) listen to what they have to say and what is encouraging is that the party is brimming with ideas. So it's some really exciting things being discussed. And Boris clearly is front-runner. I am in no doubt that he is very, very popular with my membership down here in Somerset and I think that he has a lot of what we're looking for.

But to some other candidates as well, and, frankly, I think given the gravity of the situation that we're taking, I'm going to take the next couple of weeks carrying on listening to what those candidates have to say, see how they fare under the scrutiny that they'll now be given by the world's media. And then I can make a decision at what I think is the best person to go forward (INAUDIBLE) and ultimately (INAUDIBLE).

NOBILO: James Heappey in Somerset, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate your thoughts today.

After a short break, we will be right back to give you the very latest reaction to the announcement from Theresa May this morning, that she will be resigning on the 7th of June and a Tory leadership contest will begin, where the future leader of the Conservative Party and of the United Kingdom will be decided. Stay with us.




NOBILO: Welcome back to our breaking news.

The U.K.'s Conservative Party is now facing the decision of picking a new leader after prime minister Theresa May announced she is stepping down. Ms. May spoke of her attempts to pass a Brexit deal through Parliament, saying it was right to persevere but now it's in the best interest of the country, she said, for someone new to lead that effort.

Her resignation is effective June 7th but she will remain as prime minister until the Conservative Party chooses a new leader.

I'm joined now by Sonia Sodha, chief lead writer at "The Observer," and deputy opinion editor for "The Guardian."

Also by Isabel Oakeshott. She's a former political editor for the "Sunday Times."

Thank you both for being with us.

So could I get your thoughts?

Let's start with you, Isabel, reaction to the prime minister's speech, what you expected and what you didn't.

ISABEL OAKESHOTT, "SUNDAY TIMES": Well, it was clearly a very emotional speech from the prime minister and the departure from 10 Downing Street --


OAKESHOTT: -- is always a brutal thing. But it's hard for those up and down the country who voted for Brexit to feel much sympathy for her.

17.4 million people who backed the case to leave the E.U. feel today they have been ignored and that the last few months of the prime minister's tenure in Downing Street have been a complete shambles, that our country has been humiliated and the most remarkable thing is how long she clung on when it was patently obvious that her deal, her withdraw agreement was never going to get through.

So there will be many people up and down the country who will look at those tears as she left Downing Street and not feel very much sympathy.

NOBILO: Sonia, your thoughts on the prime minister's statement today.

Do you feel like her words on her legacy were fairly empty?

After all, her chief project, Brexit, has not been a success.

SONIA SODHA, "THE OBSERVER" AND "THE GUARDIAN": Yes, I absolutely think that. It's a very emotional statement toward the end. She clearly does feel very moved to be leaving office in these circumstances.

But the thing that struck me as I listened to her list her legacy was how thin they sounded. Essentially, she came into office promising she was going to tackle the burning injustices in Britain. (INAUDIBLE) has been through some deeply painful public spending cuts that disproportionately impacted on poor families with children, the hostile environment.

So we've now seen government policies around, for example, requiring landlords to do rent checks on people who might not have the right to reside in Britain. That's been ruled a discriminatory policy by the courts.

So I think she's going to be remembered very negatively, both on Brexit because, in the end she wasn't able to make the compromises that she needed to get the deal through and, secondly, on her domestic agenda.

NOBILO: Isabel, who do you think is going to be the next leader of the Conservative Party?

And do you think the party can get back to its former standing in the polls?

Is it possible for them to get back together and return as a real force to be reckoned within politics?

OAKESHOTT: I actually think that's a much more interesting question in a way than who is going to be the next leader of the Conservative Party. Boris Johnson is the front-runner.

But whether the Conservative Party can recover from this utter disaster that it has presided over I think is a greater concern, really, for the party.

We will see, I think on Sunday night, the results of the European elections that the new Brexit Party formed only a few weeks ago will win very convincingly, I would imagine. And the important thing about that new party is it's not a single issue party. It's very deliberately fought this European election campaign on one issue, restoring trust to democracy and delivering Brexit.

But I think after the results come in, you will see in coming weeks that this party means business and it is determined to break the two- party system. That is a huge ambition. But if ever there was a time that is possible, I think it's now, with both the main parties having, in their own different ways, very much let down their core vote.

It is an extraordinary opportunity here for a new force in politics and a grave, grave threat to the Conservatives.

NOBILO: Sonia, where does this leave the future of Brexit?

Speaking to analysts and members of the Conservative Party, figures like Boris Johnson seem to be increasing in popularity, partly responding to the ties of populism around the U.K.

But they say there's a much harder style of Brexit than the majority of parliamentarians would ever vote through. So where does Brexit go from here?

SODHA: I think that is a question on everyone's mind, what on Earth does this mean for Brexit?

And unfortunately, I think the chances of a catastrophic no deal Brexit have gone up. And it's because a relatively small group of people are going to be choosing the prime minister of this country. It's not voters. It's the Tory membership. And we know that the Conservative membership is far more Eurosceptic

than the public at large. So what you're going to see is Tory leadership contenders, from people who voted Remain like Jeremy Hunt to people like Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab. They are all going to be talking up the prospect of, if we can't get this deal --


SODHA: -- negotiated, we may just crash out. And I think that is damaging for the country, that a small group of just over 100,000 people will be selecting the next prime minister.

And I think you're absolutely right in your question about parliamentarians. There is no constructive majority in Parliament for anything. We know a majority of MPs do not want no deal.

If you have a prime minister more set on no deal than Theresa May was, the legislative means for MPs to block that are not that strong at the moment going forward. So MPs could try to call a vote of no confidence. But then you would need to have a general election. That sort of stuff takes weeks. So it could be tricky for MPs to stop that from happening.

NOBILO: A last quick question to you, Isabel. President Trump is visiting the U.K. just a few days before Theresa May is going to officially resign.

What impact does this have on Britain's relationship with our allies and the U.S.?

OAKESHOTT: Well, I think it will be extremely interesting to see who President Trump meets when he's here. He is, of course, a good friend of Nigel Farage. He has very little time for our prime minister, outgoing or otherwise, Theresa May. It seems there's not much point in spending long with her.

So I would expect him to make some kind of intervention on Brexit in his own style, whether it's a tweet or whether he invites Nigel Farage to some meeting. At that point, there will be a discussion about what a new Tory leader or the Brexit Party can do to influence some trading relationship with the U.S.

NOBILO: Isabel Oakeshott and Sonia Sodha, thank you very much for being with us.

We're going to take a short break now. Stay with CNN for more breaking news about the prime minister's departure from Number 10. She's now set to resign on the 7th of June, kickstarting Tory leadership contest with front-runners like Boris Johnson, who favor a much harder Brexit. We'll have the latest for you in just a few minutes.




NOBILO: Continuing our breaking news, prime minister Theresa May is resigning as the leader of the Conservative Party, effective on June 7th.


NOBILO: I'm Bianca Nobilo and this is CNN NEWSROOM. You're watching our special coverage as the prime minister's premiership is now in its final phase after announcing she will resign as Conservative leader in just a few weeks' time. Let's take a listen.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so. I tried three times. I believe it was right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high.

But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort. So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen.


NOBILO: Ms. May's resignation will trigger a Conservative Party leadership election and the winner of that will become Britain's next prime minister. At the end of her resignation speech, an emotional Theresa May revealed how much being prime minister meant to her.


MAY: I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honor 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.


NOBILO: Of course the world was watching when a tearful Ms. May said being prime minister was the honor of her life.

A spokeswoman for German chancellor Angela Merkel says the chancellor, quote, "respects Ms. May's decision to resign." She notes they shared a good and trusting working relationship. The chancellor says Berlin wishes to maintain close cooperation and a close relationship with the British government.

French president Emmanuel Macron released a statement, praising Ms. May for her courageous work in seeking a Brexit deal in the interest of her nation and with respect for the U.K.'s European partners. However, he wants to see a rapid clarification on Brexit. No surprises there.

Max Foster joins me now from 10 Downing Street. We're getting reaction from the prime minister's party and her

cabinet. Even though we knew this speech was coming, what is the sense from government and what is the public mood?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know her as the Maybot, don't we?

She doesn't show emotion. There was that undeniably powerful moment at the end of her speech where she effectively broke down. But the reality is -- and there's sympathy for her on that.

But the reality is, as a prime minister, you're defined by what you achieved. And if you go back nearly three years, Britain voted to leave the European Union and we have made no progress effectively since then. She didn't actually achieve anything in office when it comes to her signature policy.

So while there's some sympathy for her, I think there's a real sense that this was the right decision and her fate was tied to this bill. She couldn't get the bill through her own party, let alone the Parliament. And the bill died and, as a result, so did her prime ministerial career.

NOBILO: Max, now all of the focus is going to shift, inevitably, to who might replace the prime minister.

Who are the key front-runners and what might they mean for the future of Britain regarding Brexit?

FOSTER: Well, one of the issues, of course, with Theresa May, she voted Remain but she pledged to take Britain out of the European Union. I think the general consensus is across the Conservative Party now is that whoever takes over has to be a Leaver.

Boris Johnson, the most high-profile Leaver, way out in front. But as you know, these sorts of things can change rapidly. Politics is a very fast moving game.

What's interesting is the wide breadth of people throwing their hats into the ring. We already know who they are because the campaigns started before the speech. But the issue with that is that the more under the Conservative Party rules, the more people throw their hats in the ring, the longer the process takes and the longer delay getting something done around Brexit as well. So the issue is how fast we get something into position.

But Boris Johnson way out in front. Jeremy Hunt, a lot of people are talking about today, someone who was initially Remain but moved to a Leave position. And Michael Gove, the arch Leaver, as well, lots of respect for him.

What we've got though is disunity within the Conservative Party, which is no surprise to you or me.

[06:40:00] NOBILO: Max, how do you think this is going be viewed internationally, especially across the pond in the U.S., as President Trump is going to be visiting the U.K. when he knows full well that Theresa May will be resigning in a few days' time?

FOSTER: Well, actually, Brexit doesn't play very large in the United States. I think that trip for President Trump and for Americans is all about pomp and ceremony. I think it's about the queen and about a state banquet, effectively.

He will, though, inevitably wade into the Brexit debate when he has day two of that trip, which will be largely here in Westminster.

Will he throw his support behind a candidate?

Most people are expecting Trump to support Boris Johnson but we'll have to wait and see on that. We can never predict anything with Donald Trump. Outside of America, though, in other parts of Europe, this looks like an utter shambles. I think they are shrugging in disbelief that we are three years on and there has been no progress on Brexit.

They're just throwing their hands up. But it's embarrassing for the United Kingdom, very bad for British politics and the general reputation of our leadership here.

NOBILO: Max Foster, thank you.

Let's bring in Carole Walker now.

You're there in among all these members of Parliament, perhaps ministers, former grandees of the party.

What are they making of what's going on?

WALKER: Well, we've had lots of statements coming out from senior cabinet ministers who served in the prime minister's government, all of them paying tribute to her. We heard from Michael Gove, that it was a moving speech from Prime Minister May, a prime minister who deservers our respect and gratitude.

Andrea Leadsom, of course, resigned earlier this week, I think one of the factors which tipped the prime minister to face up to the fact that it was time for her to stand down, Andrea said it was a dignified speech, an illustration of the prime minister's total commitment to country and duty. She did her utmost. I wish her all the best, Andrea Leadsom said.

We've heard from Rory Stewart, who was recently appointed to the cabinet and who is thought to take part in the leadership contest. He said that she had been a true public servant and it had been a great honor to work with her and for her.

Even Steve Baker, he's one of the most ardent Brexiteers and one of those who has voted against her deal time and again, he said that it was a very dignified statement and it was time for a new leader to begin sorting out the future but that Theresa May had achieved many things in her time in office.

And I'm joined now by Peter Bone, who is a pro-Brexiteer, member of the Conservative Party.

You watched Theresa May's speech.

What did you make of what she had to say?

PETER BONE, CONSERVATIVE MP: Well, it was very dignified. It was the right thing to do. Like all political careers, they end in failure, that's the matter you're going to get voted out one way or the other or you're forced to resign. But she did a lot for the country outside of Brexit.

We have record employment, very, very low unemployment. The economy is growing. She has done very, very well and will be remembered for many of those things. But on the main policy of Brexit, she just got it wrong.

WALKER: You say she'll be remembered for those other things but Theresa May went back to that theme and talked about how she had wanted to tackle the burning injustices. Most of that other agenda simply was not delivered because of the preoccupation with Brexit.

BONE: Yes. If you take this out on the 29th of March on a no deal basis, I think she said she will do 108 times in the House of Commons, she will probably be a national hero now. She would be continuing in office and she would be delivering on all those other things.

But she didn't. She didn't listen to people and she plowed on with a deal that had the biggest Commons defeat in parliamentary history. I think it was a failure to listen, was ultimately resulted in her having to go.

WALKER: The prime minister talked about compromise and the importance of compromise. Yet she seemed somehow to fail -- she was trying to keep both sides on board. She seemed to annoy both sides.

What was it about her approach that meant that it was not acceptable either to pro-Brexiteers like yourself or those on the other wing of the party who want to retain close ties to Europe?

BONE: She tried to deliver something in the middle. You can't have something in the middle with Brexit. You either have to leave or remain.


BONE: That's why we delegated the decision to the British people. They voted to leave. We should have implemented that leave. Her policy of trying to keep us half in and half out of the E.U. was doomed to fail from the beginning. And that's why it had the biggest Commons defeat ever.

That was a mistake. She wasn't a Leaver. She didn't embrace Brexit. She thought, well, I'll try and fudge something. That just wasn't acceptable, as you say, to Remainers as much to Leavers.

WALKER: Wouldn't it have been better for people like you to support her deal so you could have gotten out of the European Union at the end of March as planned and then continue the discussions about the future trade relationship?

BONE: I thought (INAUDIBLE) out of the European Union (INAUDIBLE) do not think if that was -- if we were actually coming out of the European Union, we would have all been the first people to sign up and say, this is the right thing to do.

The problem with the prime minister's withdrawal agreement was it was Brexit in name only. It was actually worse than staying in the E.U. because, at least in the E.U., there's a mechanism for coming out.

Under her deal, we would have been indefinitely in some sort of Euro land -- well, almost a colonnade of the European Union.

WALKER: The prime minister said this morning whoever succeeds her is going to have to try to find some consensus, is going to have to get the Houses of Parliament behind him or her with whatever plan they come up with.

How difficult is that going to be?

BONE: Well, I think a new leader will go to Brussels, try and renegotiate the deal, perhaps go for a comprehensive free trade agreement, something like the E.U. has already done with Canada, bring that back to the House of Commons.

And I think you'll get a majority for that. If the E.U. refuse to do that, I think we'll come out on a no deal basis which, of course, there is an act in Parliament to say that will happen.

WALKER: Who, then, will be your favorite candidate?

We know there is likely to be a pretty big field. Boris Johnson is seen as the front-runner.

Are you going to back him?

BONE: I think it's a bit like the Grand National. I think most of the candidates will fall at the first fence. Look, it has to be a Leaver. It has to be someone who passionately believes in Brexit. It can't be anyone associated with this terrible deal. So it can't be anyone in the cabinet.

You look outside of the cabinet, who has resigned from the cabinet and therefore has the authority to go back in?

(INAUDIBLE), Dominic Raab, Boris Johnson. But who has been on the world stage?

Who is on first name terms with the president of the United States of America, who can unite the Conservative Party and lead us to victory? I think the only conclusion can be that it is Boris Johnson. He has my support and I think he will have the support of the members of the Conservative Party.

WALKER: These leadership contests are unpredictable things, as we've seen.

Do you think that Boris will be able to win at this time?

BONE: Well, I hope so. You're absolutely right. It's a fool's game to predict anything in politics at the moment.

But, if you think of it logically -- and I think of what we know the members want, then I think Boris Johnson is the right person. A lot of Conservative members will say we want someone to lead us to victory.

Boris Johnson has twice won London as mayor when London is by nature a Labour city. So he can reach leaders that normal Conservative leaders can't. So everything points to Boris. And I hope we get on with it quickly and I hope by the end of the summer Boris is prime minister.

WALKER: Thank you very much indeed for joining us.

People are still digesting that speech from the prime minister, facing up to the new landscape ahead without her. She is staying in power for the time being. The leadership contest will begin on June 10th. It means Theresa May will still be in power in Number 10 when Donald Trump comes on that key visit in the first week in June.

Is he still going to carry on and meet the outgoing prime minister?

That's still to be determined. And already we're looking ahead to the race to succeed her.

NOBILO: Carole Walker, thank you.

Interesting that we've only spoken to two members of the Conservative Party so far in this breaking news and both have been backing Boris Johnson as a future leader. So I wonder if all signs do, in fact, point to Boris.

We'll have much more on the breaking news of the prime minister setting a departure date and the ensuing Tory leadership contest. Stay with us here on CNN.





NOBILO: Welcome back to CNN. Some analysts say it was the inability of the U.K. Parliament to

compromise that's led to the prime minister's decision to step down as the Conservative Party leader.

A tearful Theresa May announced her decision a short time ago, saying it's time for a new prime minister to lead the Brexit charge. Now markets in Europe and beyond are bracing for the full impact of this shift in the U.K.

Anna Stewart joins me now.

What has the immediate reaction been for markets and businesses?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a surprisingly emotional resignation for the prime minister and much less emotional reaction from the markets. The pound has risen ever so slightly. It's now up above $1.27 where it's been the last couple of weeks.

The pound has been wallowing ever since we found out that the Conservative Party and the Labour Party were unlikely to reach a Brexit deal (INAUDIBLE) perhaps on the idea that at least at this (INAUDIBLE) a little more certainty (INAUDIBLE).

We now know for sure that the prime minister is stepping down. We have a timetable for it. That will make some investors happy. But some reaction from investors, asset managers, said they are glad to see the back of the prime minister.

Moody's, the rating agency, really interesting from them. They said this actually further amplifies the uncertainty around Brexit. Although we see upside now, we could see further downside ahead. They're saying it increases the (INAUDIBLE) of a no deal Brexit and therefore the uncertainty is clearly credit negative, weighing on investments, hiring decisions and ultimately growth.

NOBILO: Now there are many different tribes from the Conservative Party, even more candidates putting themselves forward.

In terms of the businesses that you speak to -- and I know you have your finger on the pulse of what investors are thinking -- which of those tribes would make them the most comfortable going forward into the Brexit abyss?

STEWART: I suspect a candidate that will not end up being in the last two that ran against each other, because what business would really like is a softer Brexit and chances are that is looking less and less likely.

So bodies that represent businesses, a lot of them pointing the finger at all the political machinations. The BCC is saying Westminster has already wasted far too much time. The CBI has come out saying winner takes all; politics is not working. The nation must be put ahead of party.

So this is the reaction we're seeing from businesses. They would rather have a softer Brexit but, in lieu of that, they would like some sort of conclusion to Brexit, sooner rather than later, so it stops weighing on business investment.

NOBILO: What impact is this uncertainty having on business?

The other day you were reporting on British Steel. Yes, we have a timeline but now we know --


NOBILO: -- there will be a further period of indecision and uncertainty while the Conservative Party decide who they want to be the next prime minister.

STEWART: Because we are putting this day in and day out, the Brexit deadline was back in March. And it's moved and moved and moved and now it's supposed to be the end of October. This could possibly push that back even further.

What if we have a new prime minister that wants to go back and renegotiate with the E.U.?

NOBILO: Based on that last interview we were hearing, that is what they will be pushing for.


STEWART: -- bad news for business. British Steel, for example, have many problems aside from Brexit but their biggest argument was their clients didn't want to buy steel from them and didn't want to make contracts because of the risk of a no deal Brexit still lingering in the distance.

NOBILO: Anna Stewart, thank you so much.

Be sure to stay with us for more reaction to Theresa May's resignation coming up on a full hour of "CNN TALK." That's coming up next.