Theresa May is set to become the next Prime Minister after rival Andrea Leadsom pulled out of the race.
Leadsom stood down and offered May her “full support” after being embroiled in a media row over the weekend for suggesting in The Times that being a mother gave her the edge on May.
Graham Brady, chairman of The 1922 Committee (a committee of all backbench Conservative MPs) ruled out reopening the contest but said the committee must “formally confirm” May before it becomes official. The committee will meet this afternoon.
Leadsom said in a letter to The 1922 Committee: “The best interests of our country inspired me to stand for our leadership. I believe in leaving the EU a bright future awaits.
“The referendum result represented a clear desire for change. A nine-week leadership campaign at such a critical point for our country is highly undesirable.”
“The interests of our country are best served by the immediate appointment of a strong and well-supported Prime Minister.
“I am therefore withdrawing from the leadership election and I wish Theresa May the very greatest success. I assure her of my full support.”
Leave campaigners Boris Johnson and Michael Gove both backed May to become the next PM and guide the UK out of the European Union after she reiterated that “Brexit means Brexit” earlier today.
Johnson said: “Theresa May will provide the authority and the leadership necessary to unite the Conservative Party and take the country forward in the coming weeks and months.
“Andrea’s decision, which is both brave and principled, allows that process to begin immediately.
“I have no doubt Theresa will make an excellent party leader and Prime Minister and I’m encouraged that she’s made it clear that Brexit means Brexit – that we will leave the EU.
“It is vital that we respect the will of the people and get on with exploiting new opportunities for this country.”
And Gove said: “Andrea Leadsom spoke with great dignity and courage today. I wish her every success in the future.
“We should now move as quickly as possible to ensure Theresa May can take over as leader. She has my full support as our next Prime Minister.”