The PM was forced to resign after she failed to deliver Brexit and lost the support of her own MPs – but will continue in office as a lame duck until July.
Shortly after meeting Tory “executioner” Sir Graham Brady, she addressed the nation in the spring sunshine of Downing Street – watched by adoring husband Philip – and admitted her time is up.
The PM confessed she now has no chance of ever getting her Brexit deal through parliament but insisted “I have done my best” to deliver on the referendum result.
Today the PM claimed she had done all she could to take Britain out of the EU with a deal, saying: “Ever since I first stepped through the door behind me as Prime Minister, I have striven to make the United Kingdom a country that works not just for a privileged few, but for everyone. And to honour the result of the EU referendum.
“If you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide. I have done my best to do that.
“Sadly I have not been able to do so. I tried three times – I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success seemed high.”
Her voice cracking, she attempted to defend her legacy and insisted she has helped to fix Britain’s “burning injustices”.
Mrs May concluded: “I will shortly leave the job it has been the honour of my life to hold – the second female Prime Minister, but certainly not the last.
“I do so with no ill will but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.”
After her speech, the PM and Philip May drove off to spend the Bank Holiday weekend at their home in Sonning, Berkshire.
The Tory Leadership Race Begins
Mrs May will stay in office for the next two weeks, allowing her to welcome Donald Trump to the UK on his state visit, and step down as party leader on June 7.
She will then continue as interim PM until a new Tory leader is chosen, and finally leave office in July.
Even after leaving No10, she plans to stay as MP for Maidenhead until the next election scheduled for 2022.
In a snap poll, two thirds of Brits said Mrs May was right to resign – and half said she had been a “bad” or “terrible” Prime Minister.
Jeremy Corbyn today called for the new PM to trigger a snap General Election and let voters decide who should lead the country, saying: “The Prime Minister is right to have resigned. She has now accepted what the country has known for months – she cannot govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party.
“Parliament is deadlocked and the Conservatives offer no solutions to the other major challenges facing our country. Whoever becomes the new Conservative leader must let the people decide our country’s future, through an immediate General Election.”
The embattled Mrs May ran out of road this week after her Brexit deal collapsed and ally Andrea Leadsom stormed out of the cabinet.
Her resignation fires the starting gun on the Tory leadership race, with Boris Johnson at the head of a crowded field of contenders.
But the next PM could face the same Brexit deadlock as Mrs May – with Parliament and the Tory party bitterly divided over how to move forward.
Today European leaders insisted there is no prospect of ripping up the withdrawal agreement and starting talks again – although Irish PM Leo Varadkar admitted he was worried about the prospects for his country.
He said: “In the next couple of months we may see the election of a Eurosceptic Prime Minister who wants to repudiate the withdrawal agreement and go for a No Deal.”
David Davis said the new leader should return to Brussels and demand the EU remove the hated backstop from the existing deal.
And Boris said: “We will leave the EU on October 31, deal or No Deal.”
Tories today rallied around to praise Mrs May for her time in office – even the ones who stabbed her in the back and quit her Government.