Brexit

Arlene Foster hails tearful Theresa May's 'selfless service'

British prime minister Theresa May makes a statement outside at 10 Downing Street in London, where she announced she is standing down as Tory party leader on Friday June 7 
David Young, David Hughes, Harriet Line and Gavin Cordon, Press Association

Arlene Foster has paid tribute to Theresa May's "selfless service" to the UK.

The DUP leader, who struck a confidence and supply deal with Mrs May to keep her in power in the wake of the 2017 general election, praised the outgoing Prime Minister's "dutiful approach".

Mrs Foster and party colleagues have been particularly critical of Mrs May in recent months for her handling of the Brexit process.

They were vociferously opposed to the contentious border backstop element of the deal the Conservative leader struck with the EU, claiming it would see Northern Ireland treated differently to the rest of the UK.

The Westminster arrangement which saw the DUP's 10 MPs vote with the Government on key issues delivered a £1 billion funding package to Northern Ireland.

Commenting on Mrs May's resignation announcement, Mrs Foster said: "After the general election in June 2017, we worked with the Prime Minister and her team through the confidence and supply agreement.

"Whilst at times there were differences in our approach, particularly on Brexit, we enjoyed a respectful and courteous relationship.

"In particular, I commend and thank the Prime Minister for her dutiful approach on national issues and her willingness to recognise Northern Ireland's need for additional resources through confidence and supply arrangements.

"I pay tribute to her selfless service in the interests of the United Kingdom and wish her well for the future."

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, who leads the party at Westminster, tweeted: "Whilst we have had differences with Theresa May on Brexit, I have always found the Prime Minister very courteous and pleasant to work with on a personal basis.

"I thank her for her public service and wish her well."

May's turbulent leadership of the Conservative Party will end on June 7.

A tearful Mrs May said she had "done my best" to get her Withdrawal Agreement through parliament and take the UK out of the European Union but acknowledged she had failed.

"It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit," she said in Downing Street.

Watched by husband Philip and her closest aides, an emotional Mrs May said it was in the "best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort".

Announcing her departure, she said: "I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7th June so that a successor can be chosen."

Concluding her resignation statement, Mrs May broke down as she said it had been "the honour of my life" to serve "the country that I love".

Earlier, in a sign that the leadership race to replace Mrs May is already under way, Helen Grant quit as Conservative vice chair for communities to "actively and openly" support Dominic Raab.

She quit her Tory party role to avoid any "perception of a conflict" between Mr Raab's campaign and Conservative HQ".

Ms Grant said the former Brexit secretary "has an inspiring vision for a fairer Britain and I think he is undoubtedly the best person to unite the Conservative Party and our country".

Mrs May said that in order to deliver Brexit, her successor would have to build a consensus in Parliament.

"It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum," she said.

"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."

Mrs May said the "unique privilege" of being PM is to use the platform to give a "voice to the voiceless" and to fight the "burning injustices that still scar our society".

She listed her work on mental health care, domestic abuse, the race disparity audit, gender pay reporting, and the Grenfell Tower inquiry.

The prime minister said: "This country is a union: not just a family of four nations, but a union of people, all of us - whatever our background, the colour of our skin or who we love, we stand together and together we have a great future.

"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."

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