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‘I feel badly for Theresa’ – world reacts to May resignation

FILE PHOTO: Theresa May

London, United Kingdom | AFP | Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation looks likely to make Britain’s looming departure from the EU even more difficult, with some suggesting a hard or “no-deal” Brexit is now almost inevitable.

Here are the main international reactions to the announcement she will step down as leader of the Conservative Party, and hence also as Prime Minister, on June 7.

– No change –

The European Union said the resignation does nothing to change its position on the Brexit withdrawal deal agreed with Britain.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker noted May’s decision “without personal joy”, a spokeswoman said, adding that the council of EU leaders has “set out its position” on the Brexit deal.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, tweeted that he “would like to express my full respect for @theresa_may and for her determination, as Prime Minister, in working towards the #UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU”.

– ‘I feel badly for Theresa’: Trump –

US President Donald Trump said he felt sorry for May, though he has criticised the British PM repeatedly in recent months over  her handling of Brexit even as she tried to establish good relations with him.

“I feel badly for Theresa. I like her very much. She is a good woman,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn. “She worked very hard. She’s very strong.”

The US leader is scheduled to make a state visit to Britain next month and will meet with May just days before she formally resigns on June 7.

– ‘Rapid clarification’ –

French President Emmanuel Macron hailed May for her “courageous work” in seeking to implement Brexit in the interests of her country while showing respect for Britain’s European partners.

But the Elysee statement added: “The principles of the EU will continue to apply, with the priority on the smooth functioning of the EU, and this requires a rapid clarification.

“At a time of an important choice, votes of rejection that do not offer an alternative project will lead to an impasse.”

– Merkel’s ‘respect’ –

German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted May’s decision “with respect”, saying they shared a “good and trusting” working relationship, according to her spokeswoman.

Pledging to keep working with May in the same spirit as long as she is in office, Merkel noted Berlin “wishes to maintain close cooperation and a close relationship with the British government”, spokeswoman Martina Fietz said.

Fietz declined to comment on how the resignation could affect Brexit, as “the development depends essentially on domestic political developments in Britain”.

– ‘Very difficult period’ –

In Moscow, the Kremlin said that May’s premiership had been a very difficult time for Russia’s relations with Britain.

“Mrs May’s stint as prime minister has come during a very difficult period in our bilateral relations,” said President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

– No Brexit renegotiation –

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the EU would never reopen negotiations on the Brexit divorce deal, regardless of who succeeds Theresa May.

“The withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation,” Rutte told a news conference.

– ‘Dangerous’ time for Ireland –

May’s resignation is fraught with dangers for Ireland because her successor could take Britain out of the EU without a deal, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned.

“British politics is consumed by Brexit and will be consumed by Brexit for a very long time. It means that we now enter a new phase when it comes to Brexit, and a phase that may be a very dangerous one for Ireland,” Varadkar said while casting his ballot in the European Parliament election.

– No-deal exit almost inevitable –

Madrid warned that a no-deal Brexit appeared almost inevitable.

“Under these circumstances, a hard Brexit appears to be a reality that is near impossible to stop,” Spanish government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa told reporters, adding that the British government and parliament would be “solely responsible for a no-deal exit (from the EU) and its consequences”.

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