'Deeply regret not being able to deliver Brexit', Theresa May says a day ahead of stepping down as British PM

London: Theresa May conducted her final public tour as British Prime Minister on Thursday with a visit to Normandy in France to mark the 75th anniversary of the World War II D-Day landings.

May, 62, gave a moving speech to pay tribute to the brave soldiers who fought for freedom on the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago as part of the Allied Forces. She said it was "truly humbling" to be at the celebrations with the men who fought in the "greatest battle for freedom the world has ever known".

 Deeply regret not being able to deliver Brexit, Theresa May says a day ahead of stepping down as British PM

British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers her speech during a ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery as part of D-Day celebrations. AP

"It is an honour for all of us to share this moment with you. If one day can be said to have determined the fate of generations to come – in France, in Britain, in Europe and the world – that day was 6 June, 1944. These young men belonged to a very special generation, the greatest generation," she said.

On Friday, May will formally step down as Prime Minister having set the timetable for her Downing Street exit last month. It will then trigger the official phase of the Conservative Party leadership contest from Monday, so far with 11 MPs in the running to succeed her.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson remains the frontrunner, but the field is seen as wide open at the moment.

During her speech on the steps of Downing Street, May said, "It is, and will always remain, a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit. It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum."

Prime minister May's official resignation date is 7 June, but that does not mean that she will leave 10 Downing Street straight away. Her time as Tory leader will come to an end this Friday, but she will remain as the Prime Minister until a replacement has been chosen by the Conservative party.

It is possible that the wait for a new Tory leader could be shorter than originally expected, as the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs and the party board decided on new rules for the contest.

World leaders including US President Donald Trump gathered on the south coast of England on Wednesday to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, honouring the Allied forces who risked and gave their lives in the invasion that helped liberate Europe from Nazi Germany.

D-Day saw over 150,000 Allied troops land on the beaches of Normandy in northwest France on 6 June, 1944, carried by 7,000 boats. The Battle of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord, was a turning point in the war, and helped bring about Nazi Germany's defeat in May 1945.

Updated Date: Jun 06, 2019 23:50:47 IST