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Theresa May resignation: How PM's three-year premiership was dominated by failed attempts to deliver Brexit

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 24/05/2019 NIcholas Cecil

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Watch: May tears up as she announces her resignation (Sky)

Just under three years ago, Theresa May spoke to the nation from Downing Street and declared her mission as Prime Minister was to tackle “burning injustice” in Britain.

Today, she announced she would resign as Tory leader with Brexit having reduced this noble ambition to ashes.

Her premiership, which will also end later this summer, will primarily be remembered for having failed, despite all her efforts, to deliver on the verdict of the British people in June 2016 for the UK to quit the European Union.

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More on this story: 

LIVE: Tearful May falls on her sword (Evening Standard)

Five things on the next PM's to-do list (Sky)

Why PM's downfall was inevitable (Guardian)

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She also suffered the biggest parliamentary defeat in history, when her Brexit proposals were rejected by a crushing 230 majority in January, and when the European election results are announced on Sunday night they are expected to be a historic low for the Conservatives.

The seeds of her downfall were planted shortly after she took office, according to MPs, when she failed to properly recognise how close the referendum result had been, 52-48.

Prime Minister Theresa May announces her resignation outside No 10. © Reuters Prime Minister Theresa May announces her resignation outside No 10.

Downing Street quickly began arguing that it was a “decisive” result as Mrs May sought to ram through her Brexit plans with a series of “red lines” which aimed for Britain to take back control of its “borders, money and laws”. Theresa May wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

In fact, the country and Parliament remained deeply split and by the time she reached out to other parties to try to get a Brexit agreement her premiership was already heading into a death spiral.

Gallery: Theresa May's career in pictures (Photos)

After inheriting a Commons majority, albeit small, Mrs May made in the spring of 2017 what is now widely seen as a reckless gamble to call a snap election in June, something No10 had insisted would not happen.

With only a very small circle of close advisers, she took the decision on a walking holiday in Snowdonia and after that her premiership was on a downwards path.

The Tories had been about 20 points ahead of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour in the polls.

But the Conservative campaign was a disaster and Mrs May frittered away the Tory majority, leaving her having to rely on the Democratic Unionist Party to stay in No10. a woman standing in a room: The Queen welcomes Theresa May before inviting her to become Prime Minister and form a new government in July 2016 (Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited The Queen welcomes Theresa May before inviting her to become Prime Minister and form a new government in July 2016 (Getty Images)

Crucially, when she later tried to get her Brexit blueprint through the Commons, it was repeatedly rejected by the DUP, backed by hardline Brexiteers, because of the Northern Ireland border “backstop”.

The dismal election result for Mrs May was partly blamed on what appears to have been such over-confidence of victory that the Conservatives included in their manifesto a plan to deal with the UK’s social care crisis, which was quickly branded a “dementia tax” that could lead to more people having to sell their homes to pay for care. Prime Minister Theresa May announces her resignation outside No 10. © Getty Prime Minister Theresa May announces her resignation outside No 10.

The Prime Minister also left the impression that she was running scared of Mr Corbyn by refusing to agree to a TV showdown debate.

Theresa May, Malcolm Turnbull, Cressida Dick standing next to a man in a suit and tie: Emotional: Theresa May with Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull and Met Commissioner Cressida Dick during a visit to the Borough Market area in central London (Niklas Halle/Pool via AP) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Emotional: Theresa May with Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull and Met Commissioner Cressida Dick during a visit to the Borough Market area in central London (Niklas Halle/Pool via AP) As the longest-serving Home Secretary for more than 50 years, Mrs May built up a reputation as a “bloody difficult woman”, a phrase used by Tory grandee Ken Clarke and which she wore with pride.

She became Tory leader and Prime Minister in July 2016 after David Cameron stepped down following the EU referendum.

The leadership contest was a “coronation” after Michael Gove torpedoed Boris Johnson’s campaign which he was masterminding and then did not run himself and Andrea Leadsom also pulled out.

A vicar’s daughter, Mrs May, 62, has a strong sense of public duty, an attention to detail, and former cricket opening batsman Geoffrey Boycott as one of her heroes.

She won praise for her response to the 2017 terror attacks in London and Manchester, for the campaign against modern slavery, tackling sexual harrassment, including in Parliament, and uniting the West against Russia in response to the Salisbury Novichok poisonings.

Theresa May sitting at a table: On her own: At a European Council meeting in 2017 (EPA) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited On her own: At a European Council meeting in 2017 (EPA) However, she was also accused of stubborness, with a “nothing has changed” approach, with her dogged “Brexit means Bexit” mantra, and a secretive style of leadership, with even Cabinet ministers at times caught by surprise over major announcements.

She refused to ditch the Tory goal to cut net migration to below 100,000 despite many Cabinet colleagues urging her to do so.

She also scaled back stop-and-search by the police which has been blamed for a rise in knife crime and fatalities in London.

Lacking small-talk skills, Mrs May often looked awkard at EU summits and faced the humilation of European leaders rejecting her plans to delay Brexit and effectively imposing their own timetable on Britain.

Donald Trump, Theresa May are posing for a picture: Hand of friendship: With Donald Trump (EPA) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Hand of friendship: With Donald Trump (EPA) She struggled, at least initially, to reach out to the families who lost loves ones in the Grenfell fire disaster.

She was the first visiting world leader who Donald Trump met in Washington shortly after his inauguration at the start of 2017.

He talked of a “fantastic relationship,” of a big US-UK trade deal and the two famously held hands as they walked through the White House.

However, on a visit to the UK last summer, the president stunned Westminster by telling The Sun that her Brexit plan, to retain close economic ties with the EU on goods, would “probably kill” a UK-US trade deal.

An intensely private politician, she revealed six years ago that she had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes

After Brexiteers launched an attempted bid to topple her, she won a vote of confidence in her premiership in December.

An intensely private politician, she revealed six years ago that she had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and needed twice-daily insulin injections.

a couple of people that are standing in the snow: Walking in the Swiss Alps with husband Philip (Photo by Marco Bertorello - WPA Pool/Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Walking in the Swiss Alps with husband Philip (Photo by Marco Bertorello - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

With hobbies including cooking and walking in the Swiss mountains, she has a love of high fashion, including trademark kitten heels and met her husband Philip when they were both studying at Oxford; he was two years younger than her and president of the Oxford Union,

After graduating with a degree in geography, she worked in the City, was a councillor in Merton, south west London, and in 1997 beat Philip Hammond to be the Tory contender for the seat of Maidenhead which she won.

With a moderniser streak, Mrs May told the Tory autumn conference in 2002, when she was party chairwoman. that “some people call us - the nasty party”.

Fifteen years later, as she delivered a speech as Prime Minister to the annual rally in Manchester, she lost her voice, a prankster disrupted it by handing her a mock P45 and letters fell off the slogan on a board behind her.

If things could go wrong, they did. Lee Nelson AKA Simon Brodkin hands a 'P45' to Theresa May at the conference in Manchester (AFP/Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Lee Nelson AKA Simon Brodkin hands a 'P45' to Theresa May at the conference in Manchester (AFP/Getty Images)

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