Theresa May leaves with head held high but dogged by Brexit

LONDON (AP) — Theresa May has plenty of options now that she’s no longer a resident of 10 Downing Street.

She could opt for the highly paid speaker circuit, become a consultant to an investment bank, or take a high profile PR position — like former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who signed up with Facebook for his post-politics career.

But May is not cashing in — for now. Ever modest and dutiful, the former prime minister simply plans to take a backseat role in Parliament, one of 650 members of the House of Commons, representing her longtime district as she has for more than two decades.

After the heartbreak of trying to wrench Britain out of the European Union — an effort that produced a still unbroken impasse that dominated her three year premiership — May seems to crave a bit of normalcy.

“I am about to leave Downing Street but I am proud to continue as the member of Parliament for Maidenhead. I will continue to do all I can to serve the national interest,” she said, walking away from the heights of power with her head held high and her husband Philip at her side.

While the Brexit project she touted on her arrival remains in tatters, May cited her role as Britain’s second female prime minister as a positive record for women.

“I hope that every young girl who has seen a woman prime minister now knows for sure that there are no limits to what they can achieve,” she said in her final Downing Street address.

An hour earlier, she told members of Parliament that a future female prime minister — or perhaps more than one — could be in their midst.

May’s final months were painful as Parliament repeatedly rejected the Brexit divorce deal with the EU that was the cornerstone of her administration. She finally accepted that her Conservative Party was hopelessly divided on the issue, and succumbed to pressure to step down.

May has promised her “full support” for successor Boris Johnson, who now inherits the Brexit stalemate with an Oct. 31 deadline for Britain’s departure fast approaching. But many expect her to use her parliamentary vote — and her influence — to try to prevent Britain from leaving the EU without a deal, which Johnson says he’s willing to do if necessary.

Former Conservative Party legislator Matthew Parris said he does not expect May to stay out of the fray even though her role is much reduced.

“When it comes to votes in the House of Commons she has set her face against a no-deal Brexit,” he said. “Her refusal to contemplate a no-deal Brexit was what in the end destroyed her. And I don’t think she’s going to change her mind now about a no-deal Brexit. And if it looks as if we’re heading that way. Expect to hear more from Theresa May.”


Renata Brito in London contributed to this report.