David Cameron has officially resigned as Prime Minister, as the shock vote to leave the EU begins to sink in across the world.
In a statement outside Number 10, a seemingly emotional Cameron, whose voice nearly broke at one point, said that he would continue to “steady the ship” in the coming weeks and months, but that “fresh leadership” was needed to take the country forward.
Speaking just after 8.15am, Cameron said:
I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to say directly and passionately what I think and feel, head heart and soul […] I made clear that the referendum was […] not about the future of any single politician, including myself.
He went on to say:
This is not a decision I have taken lightly, but I do believe it is in the national interests to have a period of stability, and then the new leadership required. There is no need for a precise timetable today, but in my view we should aim to have a new prime minister in place by the start of the Conservative party conference in October.
While his resignation was predictable if there was a vote to leave, there was one aspect that was extremely telling.
The negotiation with the European Union will need to begin under a new Prime Minister, and I think it’s right that this new PM takes the decision about when to trigger Article 50, and start the formal and legal process of leaving the EU.
Article 50 is the EU legislation which surrounds the exit of a country from the union. The negotiating period takes around two years, during which time the member state which has decided to leave has no say in the process. However, all EU laws and trade deals that are in place still apply.
There are two possible reasons why David Cameron has chosen to delay the invoking of Article 50.
Firstly, this referendum is not legally binding. As The Canary previously reported:
The legislation drawn up for the EU referendum outlines no legal obligation for the government to follow the outcome of the vote – rather, it is an “advisory” rather than a “mandatory” directive by the people of Britain to their government. The current leader of which has led an unwavering campaign for a remain vote.
There is the possibility Cameron has intentionally delayed firstly his resignation, and secondly the triggering of the legislation, in an attempt to negotiate with Brussels (and, more importantly his own party) as to whether to acknowledge the will of the people.
This is rather unlikely. He said in his speech this morning:
The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered […] So there can be no doubt about the result.
While 84 Tory MPs signed an open letter urging Cameron to stay on as Prime Minister, it would be highly unlikely that they would roll-over and accept an undoing of everything they have fought for and fundamentally believe in.
The second, and more likely reason for this delaying tactic is a rather worrying one.
By putting off his resignation and the firing of the starting gun for our legal withdrawal to begin, Cameron has put his party first.
He has allowed four months for the Tory party to, essentially, lick its internal wounds and regroup. The EU subject has been a raging internal conflict within the party for decades, one which has seen in-fighting between ministers under every Prime Minister.
That battle can now end – but Cameron, as an outgoing Prime Minister with a legacy to consider, will not want to go down in history as the man who broke the Conservative party in two.
Endless backroom discussion will now take place. Cynical deals will be struck on unprecedented levels, just to ensure that by the time Cameron leaves in October, the Conservative party are in the strongest position they can be. Make no mistake, the snivelling, somewhat embittered handshakes will be happening – just to ensure the Tories’ position in power is cemented for the foreseeable future.
David Cameron will, in many people’s eyes, be remembered for being one of the most right-wing Prime Ministers in history.
But, by stalling the “beginning of the end” of our relationship with the EU, he may well be remembered as the man who saved the Conservative party from itself.
Featured image via Screenshot