The world’s media declared that the ‘unbreakable woman’ had finally broken after Theresa May announced she would quit, as foreign leaders warned her successor would have to act quickly to clean up the Brexit mess.
The PM’s EU colleagues thanked her for her efforts but her possible Tory replacements were warned that Brussels may not offer a better deal – and that a no-deal Brexit may now be impossible to stop.
Many foreign news websites led with the striking image of Mrs May breaking down in tears as her premiership finally crumbled.
German national newspaper Die Welt ran with the headline: ‘With a cracking voice, May announces her resignation’.
The New York Times said Britain’s PM had been ‘undone by Brexit’, predicting a ‘vicious contest to succeed her within the Conservative party’.
Many world newspapers led with images of Theresa May breaking down with emotion as she quit. Here, the website of German tabloid Bild simply declares ‘Theresa May’s resignation’ and quotes her regret that she could not get Brexit over the line
French broadcaster TV5 Monde said that the ‘unbreakable woman has just given way’ after Mrs May withstood months of pressure before finally resigning
France’s TV5 Monde had a more poetic headline, saying: ‘The unbreakable woman has just given way’.
Der Spiegel in Germany said she had been ‘overcome by emotion’, saying she had been ‘massively under pressure from all sides’.
In a scathing assessment, The Australian declared that Mrs May was ‘arguably the worst PM in the UK’s modern history’.
As world leaders responded, French President Emmanuel Macron sent Mrs May a ‘personal message of support’, praising her for a ‘courageous effort’.
But the Elysee said Britain had to provide a ‘rapid clarification’ of what it wanted.
‘Our relations with the United Kingdom are critical in all areas. It is too early to speculate on the consequences of May’s decision,’ Macron’s office said.
Spanish government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa said that a no-deal Brexit now appeared inevitable. A new PM would have to agree a deal by October 31.
‘Under these circumstances, a hard Brexit appears to be a reality that is near impossible to stop’, she said.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel thanked Mrs May for a ‘good and trusting’ working relationship and noted her departure with ‘respect’.
Spanish newspaper El Pais also led with the picture of an emotional Mrs May and explained that she had begun the race for her successor at 10 Downing Street
The New York Times said Theresa May had been ‘undone by Brexit’ as her tumultuous three-year premiership comes to a close
Berlin ‘wishes to maintain close cooperation and a close relationship with the British government’, her spokesman said.
Her office declined to comment on how May’s departure could affect Brexit, as ‘the development depends essentially on domestic political developments in Britain’.
In Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was ‘sorry to hear’ about the PM’s resignation.
But foreign minister Simon Coveney said the EU was unlikely to offer a better deal to Mrs May’s successor.
‘From my perspective, I don’t see the European Union offering any new prime minister a better or very different deal to what was on offer to Theresa May,’ Coveney told Newstalk radio.
‘This idea that a new prime minister will be a tougher negotiator and will put it up to the EU and get a much better deal for Britain? That’s not how the EU works.’
A European Commission spokeswoman said its president Jean-Claude Juncker had ‘followed Prime Minister May’s announcement this morning without personal joy’.
‘The president very much liked and appreciated working with Prime Minister May, and has said before Theresa May is a woman of courage for whom he has great respect,’ the spokeswoman said.
Italian newspaper La Repubblica also showed the PM’s tearful face and quoted her regret at not being able to deliver Brexit
German broadsheet newspaper Die Welt said that Mrs May had resigned ‘with a cracking voice’, explaining that she had failed to get her Brexit deal through Parliament
The office of French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured in Paris earlier this week) said Britain had to provide a ‘rapid clarification’ of what it wanted on Brexit
‘He will equally respect and establish working relations with any new prime minister, whomever they may be, without stopping his conversations with Prime Minister May.
‘Our position on the Withdrawal Agreement has been set out by my colleague yesterday. There is no change to that.
‘We have set out our position on the Withdrawal Agreement and on the political declaration.
‘The European Commission and the Article 50 format has set out its position and we remain available for anyone who will be the new prime minister.’
EU negotiator Michel Barnier offered his ‘full respect’ to the outgoing PM, thanking her for her ‘determination in working towards the UK’s orderly withdrawal’.
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz praised Theresa May as a ‘principled’ leader and voiced the hope that her successor will ‘see to an orderly Brexit’
EU negotiator Michel Barnier praised the outgoing British PM’s ‘determination in working towards the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU’
Irish leader Leo Varadkar said he was ‘sorry to hear’ of Theresa May’s resignation and thanked her for her efforts on Brexit
Dutch leader Mark Rutte said he had given Mrs May his ‘thanks and respect’ and said the withdrawal deal she negotiated remained on the table.
In Austria, chancellor Sebastian Kurz – who is facing a wave of domestic pressure himself – said Mrs May was a ‘principled and head-strong politician’.
‘I wish her well. I hope that despite her announcement, reason will prevail in the UK and her successor will see to an orderly Brexit,’ he said.
Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said: ‘In spite of our differences Theresa May showed an openness of mind to resolve Brexit for UK and EU. I want to thank her for her resolve and cooperation.’
There was no immediate response from Washington where it was very early in the morning when Mrs May made her Downing Street statement.
Meanwhile Indian leader Narendra Modi sent a curiously-timed tweet, promising to work with Britain after his own re-election, only shortly after Mrs May had resigned.